Off the Cliff

The Harder They Come hits the Arsht Center.

In almost every one of the blaxploitation films that followed The Harder They Come during the '70s — most of which were based on the Stagger Lee or Ivanhoe myth, whether the directors knew it or not — Jimmy Cliff's tired eyes were the ones that stared at you from the screen, looking out sadly from the heads of Pam Grier, Ron O'Neal, and hundreds of others. Like The Harder They Come, those flicks took corruption as a given — when every game is rigged, this is what heroism looks like.

Rolan Bell is galvanizing as Ivanhoe.
Rolan Bell is galvanizing as Ivanhoe.


By Perry Henzel. With Rolan Bell, Lain Gray, and Joanna Francis. Through September 13. Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, 1300 Biscayne Blvd., Miami; 305-949-6722;

To see The Harder They Come driven by Bell's happy rebellion is to see something altogether new: Ivanhoe Martin really expects justice, and its absence feels like a violation. Bell's Martin dies waiting on the world to change.

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