‘Shottas’ doesn’t give you much to care about

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Ky-Mani Marley (left) and Spragga Benz star in 'Shottas'
Ky-Mani Marley (left) and Spragga Benz star in ‘Shottas’

To be quite honest, I don’t get gangster or mob flicks. I don’t really have much interest in celebrating criminals, and most of these films are populated with characters I couldn’t care less about. They are bad guys doing bad things, and often deserve the bad things that happen to them.

That’s exactly what’s wrong with Shottas, about a pair of Jamaican kids who grow up to be killers and thieves. There is nothing redeemable about either of them. In fact, there isn’t one redeemable character in this entire film. As a result, I’m left asking the question: Why should I care what happens to any of them? And if I don’t care, why am I going to watch it?

Shottas — a Jamaican term for gangster — follows Biggs (Ky-Mani Marley, son of famed singer Bob Marley) and Wayne (Spragga Benz), who in the early 1970s live in the ghetto of Kingston. After stealing money from a local truck driver, they escape to America where each of them have family. Fast forward 20 years later, Biggs returns to Jamaica after being deported for criminal activities in Miami. Wayne meets him at the airport, having been similarly kicked out of the United States several years earlier. Biggs joins with Wayne’s criminal ways, until the pair — along with the maniacal Mad Max (Paul Campbell) — are forced to flee Jamaica. Armed with forged visas, they make their way back to Miami and Biggs quickly reinserts himself into the criminal underworld. But a rival gangster aims to take Biggs, Wayne and Mad Max down.

There’s an element to what makes a mob-type film work. The hero or main character may be a bad guy, but he must operate with a moral code that places him higher than the criminals he goes up against. A great example of this is Payback, the Mel Gibson flick. In that film, Gibson is a criminal who goes after the organization that stole his money. Gibson’s character is a bad guy, a killer and thief, but compared to the characters he goes up against he’s the good guy. He has a code of honor that guides him, while the other “villains” don’t. In Shottas, the main characters Biggs and Wayne are just as terrible as the people they are fighting. There is no differentiating them from the bad guys they’re going up against.

I’m not trying to say that characters need to be good people for a film to work. That’s not true. But characters need to be relatable in some way. You have to feel for a character. If you’re going to spend two hours of your life following a person through a story, you have to feel something. Anything. Shottas lacks that, and as such, there’s nothing to hold your interest or encourage you to care at all what will happen to any of the people in it.

Shottas mainly has two things going for it — strong editing and a great soundtrack. If you put it up against other low-budget action flicks, Shottas looks fairly good. The action sequences are a toss up, but overall it has a nice style. The editing is also slick, more so that other action flicks I’ve seen on Cinemax at three in the morning. And while there’s nothing compelling about any of the people in the film, I have to admit, there was one character that was somewhat interesting. Mad Max, the third man out, who is something of a deranged killer. Campbell offers the film’s best performance, and benefits because his character is actually the most dynamic.

Shottas has been hit with a lot of road bumps as it searches for an audience. Although it’s finally hitting screens here in the United States tomorrow (November 3rd), the film has been popular with the bootleg crowd for months. I suppose a film like this could find an audience, but I think it would have benefited from a script that was more developed, and characters with more depth.

Shottas (2002)
Shottas poster Rating: 6.2/10 (3,264 votes)
Director: Cess Silvera
Writer: Cess Silvera
Stars: Ky-Mani Marley, Spragga Benz, Louie Rankin, Paul Campbell
Runtime: 95 min
Rated: R
Genre: Action, Crime, Drama
Released: 27 Feb 2002
Plot: This movie is about crime connected to selling drugs and extortion, hence the title. The crimes which start off in Jamaica then move to USA.

Michael Sheridan

Michael Sheridan has written, directed and produced more than a dozen short films under the banner of Maynard Films, and has worked as a writer for more than a decade for websites, magazines and newspapers.

One Reply to “‘Shottas’ doesn’t give you much to care about”

  1. I disagree with this review respectfully.

    It is obvious that the writer has no third world slum experience/ inner city ghetto experience.

    Biggs for example shows that conscience you request when voicing his disapproval of Wayne’s extortion in Jamaica. The lower class is often times taxed and extorted in countries like Jamaica and that reality is reflected.

    In the United States its more the statement that Jamaicans can run in a foreign territory and take over. Would it make sense to you if we discussed the Irish in Hell’s Kitchen? The criminal world has always had ethnic pride, see prison gangs based on race. Pride in tribe and the title “shottas” is just that, a Jamaican thug braggadocio movie.

    Nothing different to Tony Montanas scar face rags to riches story. Wayne and Biggs get to Miami and rags to riches tale, quickly climb to the top of the criminal underworld. Unfortunately, ghetto youths dream.

    The movie is a hood classic or what you would call a cult classic. It is a cultural movie you don’t understand and quite frankly you sound ignorant when criticizing this film. No offense, get off your high horse. Respectfully.

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