In the tradition of Scarface and The Harder They Come, Shottas is an unapologetic raw urban drama about two young men, Wayne (Spragga Benz) and Biggs (Kymani Marley), who grow up together on the tough and dangerous streets of Kingston, Jamaica. As young boys, they begin a life of crime, eventually moving to the U.S., where they begin a ruthless climb from the bottom to the glittering top of a criminal enterprise in a Miami filled with fast cars and gorgeous women. The two men remain fiercely bound by their shottas loyalty as they aggressively take control of the Jamaican underworld.
In Jamaican patois, a gangster is a "shotta" or "shot-caller." Like The Harder They Come and Third World Cop, Cess Silvera choreographs his crime drama to a reggae beat. Bob Marley’s son Stephen provides the music, while Wyclef Jean drops by as a dealer. The saga begins in late-1970s Kingston. Teenagers Biggs (J.R. Silvera) and Wayne (Carlton Grant Jr.) have had their fill of poverty, so they get a gun and start looting and shooting like the shottas they idolize. Flash forward 20 years and Biggs (Stephen’s actor/musician brother, Kymani Marley) has just been deported from the States. He picks up where he left off, joining Wayne (DJ Spragga Benz) and the psychopathic Mad Max (Paul Campbell, Dancehall Queen) in the thug life. As with Pacino's Tony Montana, Miami is their ultimate port of call. Silvera acknowledges the debt to Brian De Palma's Scarface, but there isn't as much drama here--just a lot of violence (spurting blood is a running motif). Cinematographer Cliff Charles uses all manner of visual trickery to lively up the joint, like grainy black and white, slow motion, and jump cuts. The soundtrack also helps to keep things moving, but it's hard to feel sympathy for those who feel no sympathy for anyone but themselves. Vicious as he was, Montana still had a smidgen of sensitivity. As with The Harder They Come, this English-language production is subtitled due to strong accents and pervasive slang. --Kathleen C. Fennessy