Julien Neaves, Caribbean Head Writer
Growing up in Trinidad in the 1990s Jamaican music and culture were quite popular, and still remain so. And I recall hearing about the film Third World Cop in passing but I never watched it. And at a glance it seemed like your average ghetto crime flick so I didn’t think I was missing out on much. But in my unending quest to highlight Caribbean films (Cariwood) I decided to check it out last night. And man, I was definitely missing out. This is easily one of the best films from the region.
The 1999 action crime film was directed by Chris Browne and produced by Island Jamaica Films, owned by Chris Blackwell, founder of legendary music label Island Records. It tells the story of a hotshot Jamaican cop nicknamed “Capone” seeking to take down a gun-running ring in his native Kingston. Capone is played by Paul Campbell, arguably the country’s most popular actor and my top Jamaican actor as well. He showed off his comedic talents in classic sex romp The Lunatic and has taken villainous turns in films like Dancehall Queen and Home Again. As the lead in Third World Cop he took what could have easily been a one-note, one-liner dropping, Dirty Harry rip-off and crafted a witty, nuanced, intelligent and super cool character. And he also wields double handguns and is a crack shot. That’s important too.
Campbell is joined by another popular Jamaican actor and his Lunatic co-star Carl Bradshaw, who does his duty as flambouyant don (crime boss) Wonie. And I was also quite impressed by the performance of Mark Danvers as Capone’s childhood friend Ratty. I expected quality acting from the veterans Campbell and Bradshaw but young Danvers truly delivers in his role and makes for a sympathetic character. Dancehall fans will also get a kick out of seeing artistes Ninja Man and Elephant Man in minor roles and by the pumping soundtrack that includes songs by Luciano, Bernie Man, Innocent Crew and Lady G.
The script. which was co-written by Browne, is quite sharp. The dialogue, which is primarily in Jamaican patois, feels authentic and the lines are cracking. Some of my favourite ones include “We run tings; tings no run we” (translation: we are in charge, we don’t let circumstances control us) and “Yuh act like yuh sh— can make patty” (translation: you act so superior, like your excrement can be used to make pastry). The film features some typical Jamaican scenes (a dancehall party, some go-go dancers, youths playing football) but they feel organic and not superfluous.
The pacing of the film is also pretty smooth, though there is a slight drag in the middle. And while there are not many action scenes the ones featured are punchy and visceral. And the climax was some action movie brilliance. You know in some action films where they treat death with all the consequence of a video game? Well Third World Cup actually puts weight and meaning to the newly departed. That was a level of depth I truly was not expecting. And there is one execution scene with a style and flair that reminded me of Quentin Tarantino. As I said, impressive work here.
What else can I say? This film has a lot more going on than what appears on the surface, and it is both more than the sum of its parts and rises above its own subgenre. It is no surprise it became Jamaica’s highest grossing film at the box office, beating out both Dancehall Queen and Home Alone 2 (take that Kevin McCallister!). It’s actually sad the film didn’t get a sequel as I would love to see Capone dealing out justice again. And if I were to rate this Third World Cop (which I will in a second) I would say it’s first class.
Editor Jules’s Score: 9 out of 10
You can view the film for yourself on the Palm YouTube channel at the following link. And you can check out more great Jamaican content below:
Revisiting seminal C’bean film The Harder They Come (Jamaica)
Sprinter takes gold in three slices (Jamaica, TTFF 2018)
Julien “Editor Jules” Neaves is a TARDIS-flying, Force-using Trekkie whose bedroom stories were by Freddy Krueger, learned to be a superhero from Marvel, but dreams of being Batman. I love promoting Caribbean film (Cariwood), creating board games and I am an aspiring author. I say things like “12 flavours of awesome sauce”. Read more.