Here we go, with another rise and fall story in the underworld. Two young friends in Jamaica, Biggs and Wayne, grow up separately to become powerful gangsters (the “shottas” of the title). After a prolonged separation, they reunite in Kingston, and the story takes them back and forth between that city and Miami as they climb the drug totem pole, heading for the inevitable fall shown pre-credits.
All the characters speak Jamaican patois, making subtitle necessary. This and the vision of the grinding poverty of Kingston give a certain freshness to the film, but the storyline is utterly hackneyed, and we know nothing about the characters we are following, let alone have any reason to sympathize with them. Attitudes toward women are, as one might expect, antediluvian. Imagine a Grand Theft Auto storyline presented with all the humour and satire removed, and this is what you’d get.
LOUD. VERY, VERY LOUD. Which helps pump up the energy of the film to a considerable degree. The music sounds great, though it blasts primarily out of the rear speakers. This sounds odd during the credits, but works when the music is background to the on-screen action. The gunshots sound like heavy artillery, and the placement of the effects is superb.
The contrasts are absolutely brilliant, leading to exceptional colours (especially the blacks and reds). As pleasing to the eye as the colours are, the remain naturalistic. The image is sharp and free of grain and edge enhancement. The transfer is so handsome-looking, one would think the film had a higher budget than it did.
A self-congratulatory introduction by director Cess Silvera and star Kymani (son of Bob) Marley sets the film up, and disc 1 has two commentary tracks. One is by Silvera on his own, and is the more informative of the two. The second, by Silvera and cast, is filled with the boys laughing at each other’s jokes, and, lacking subtitles, is almost completely incomprehensible. Also on this disc is a dictionary of shottas slang, and that’s not without interest.
Disc 2 has a 50-minute documentary that isn’t that different from most making-of featurettes – it’s informative enough, but everyone is so pleased with everything and themselves. There’s a scored “In Memoriam” gallery to all those connected with the film who died during its making (many of them suspiciously young), and Silvera provides a video dedication to his late brother. Five trailers round things out.
Some slickness here, but also familiar cliches and unreflective glorification of its loser protagonists.