By Vanessa Martinez | Shadow and Act June 22, 2012 at 1:38PM
Directed by Storm Saulter from a screenplay penned by Saulter, Paul Bucknor and Joshua Bratter, Better Mus’ Come –a fictionalized account based on real life events - is set during Jamaica’s 1970’s political turmoil among government’s socialism supporters and the Labor Union rebels to the 1978 Green Bay Massacre, in which the government tacked down and annihilated these opposing gangs.
Better mostly stars non-professional actors, aside from veteran actor Roger Guenveur Smith’s rousing minor role as the Prime Minister, including Skulls gang leder Ricky (Sheldon Shepherd), Kemala (Restless City’s Nicole Sky Grey), Ricky’s nemesis Dogheart (Duane Pusey) and others.
The bloody political drama centers on Ricky, a single father of a young boy, who has just served in time in prison for being taking part in political upheavals. He’s determined to avenge the government’s allies for unjust living conditions in their “ghetto” (Dons’), but most significantly for losing his son’s mother at the hands of officials.
A poet in his spare time, Ricky’s writings question the country’s chaos and expresses his grief over personal loss. He’s a devoted father who takes his son to school everyday; Ricky is respected in his town as he looks out for the welfare of his community. But during the night, while his son lies in his bed thirsty, Ricky preps his ammunition. In the film’s first sequence, Ricky along with his gang, infiltrate and set ablaze the prime minister’s rally.
He meets Kemala, a smart, country-girl from the other rival side of town, and they begin a tender courtship. From here on, animosities rise among the parties, which reach a climactic turn when his son’s school teacher (Sage) is killed by Ricky’s rivals.
The teacher had invited and welcomed Rickie to a Rastafarian gathering in an earlier sequence, where the teacher gave him a lesson about “not fighting a righteous battle with weapons of war.”
Rickie had become conflicted about violent vengeance, especially since falling in-love with Kemala, but the recent events send Ricky and his gang to seek bloody murder against the wishes of his girlfriend.
What follows are some well-orchestrated, vibrantly scored, action-packed sequences, in which Kamala and his son are now in danger when Ricky is forced to separate from them to better the chances of their survival.
I was mostly engaged through the duration, but I wish that the film would have told the story from Ricky and Kimala’s point of view throughout. I would’ve enjoyed a more fully-fleshed relationship, in which the narrative could have been developed from. Plus the actors have wonderful chemistry.
Better also missed the opportunity to make me intimately connect with Ricky the way I wanted to. I was almost there; unfortunately, the film develops its narrative through different players and gang members, many who I really didn’t care for. The film also goes through unnecessary meandering with said characters, some which, whether intentional or not, delivered many lines of superfluous and silly dialogue…for comic relief perhaps?
The political backdrop is fascinating, the landscape photography impressive, and the leads deliver some brave and intense performances. But the unfocused direction and elements in the film’s narrative, along with the saturation of action sequences (keep in mind action is not my favorite genre; although as I mentioned previously they were well-orchestrated), left me feeling both over and underwhelmed overall, if that makes any sense.
Watch the trailer: