A young woman crash-lands her plane in Jamaica. A local named Countryman rescues her and leads her away from the authorities, who have fabricated a story about the plane, involving drug and arms smuggling by the CIA, in order to gain popularity in an upcoming election.
Ivanhoe Martin arrives in Kingston, Jamaica, looking for work and, after some initial struggles, lands a recording contract as a reggae singer. He records his first song, “The Harder They Come,” but after a bitter dispute with a manipulative producer named Hilton, soon finds himself resorting to petty crime in order to pay the bills. He deals marijuana, kills some abusive cops and earns local folk hero status. Meanwhile, his record is topping the charts.