Review by Kam Williams
Max (Sean Bones) is a slacker from Brooklyn who’s been squandering most of his time between skateboarding and playing soccer. The only positive things in the struggling musician’s life are his beautiful girlfriend, Willow (Norah Jones), and the trip they plan to take together with the pair of tickets he won for a Caribbean cruise to Jamaica.
The naïve narcissist gets an unanticipated surprise when she breaks up with him just a couple of days before they’re supposed to set sail. So, he retreats to a local watering hole to soak his woes in booze while crying on the shoulders of his best buddies. Then, when none of them takes him up on the offer to replace Willow, Max still decides to take the vacation alone anyway.
That high seas saga is the focus of Wah Do Dem, an engaging, low-budget indie flick co-written and co-directed by Ben Chace and Sam Fleischner. The solo journey starts out subdued in tone, as the lonely protagonist desperately perambulates the ship’s decks searching to make an acquaintance, if not a love connection. However, that proves impossible since virtually all his fellow passengers are either already coupled or elderly retirees. In fact, the only excitement he encounters on board the boat is when a gay guy makes an awkward pass at him.
Everything changes when they disembark in Kingston where Max is immediately mugged on the street. Matters deteriorate from bad to worse when he ventures into the countryside by motorbike to try to retrieve his knapsack, wallet and passport. First, the boat leaves without him, then he’s held up at knife point without anything to offer the second robber.
Can a broke, white city boy from New York survive by his wits in the slums of Jamaica? That is the question raised by this cross-cultural dramedy, which does a decent job of offsetting the sheer panic of Max’s harrowing ordeal with some authentic flava’ of the Caribbean that tourists normally never get to see.
Wah do dem? “Dem a loot, dem a shoot, dem a wail!” in shanty towns as the late Desmond Dekker might say, since the harder they come, they harder they apparently still fall.
Excellent (3.5 stars)
Running time: 75 Minutes
Distributor: Wah Do Dem LLC