Dancehall Queen [1997]

A Cinderella story from the mean streets of Kingston, Jamaica, the alternately comic and gritty Dancehall Queen is an intriguingly dark crowd pleaser. Marcia (Audrey Reid) is a single mom and street vendor barely scraping by even with a financial assist from the seemingly avuncular Larry (Carl Davis), a gun-toting strongman with a twisted desire for Marcia's teenage daughter. Complicating things is Priest (Paul Campbell), a murderous hood who killed Marcia's friend and now is terrorizing the defenseless woman. Facing three big problems--Larry, Priest, and a lack of money---Marcia arrives at an inspired solution: develop an alter ego, a dancing celebrity called the Mystery Lady who can compete in a cash-prize contest and pit both of the men against one another. Which is exactly what she does, and it's great fun watching Marcia instigate her complicated plan with a little help from sympathetic friends. Colorful, rowdy, funny, and dangerous, Dancehall Queen is a clever and ceaselessy energetic movie steeped in Kingston street life and the desire to keep body and soul together at home. Reid is a delight as the everyday figure who transforms into an icon in the evenings, and the dance scenes are amazingly bawdy. --Tom Keogh

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