Stepping Razor - Red X

  • 1993
  • Movie
  • NR
  • Documentary

STEPPING RAZOR - RED X is a documentary on the life of reggae star Peter Tosh, a politically aware singer who was murdered in Jamaica in 1987. Unfortunately, the film is neither an expose on Tosh's controversial death, nor a particularly cogent summary of an influential career. Early in the film, director Nicholas Campbell focuses on the singer's death,...read more

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STEPPING RAZOR - RED X is a documentary on the life of reggae star Peter Tosh, a politically aware singer who was murdered in Jamaica in 1987. Unfortunately, the film is neither an expose on Tosh's controversial death, nor a particularly cogent summary of an influential career.

Early in the film, director Nicholas Campbell focuses on the singer's death, recounting the official story--that Tosh and two others were killed in a botched robbery attempt at his house--and unconfirmed rumors that others may have wanted Tosh dead. Tosh was apparently negotiating to start up a

"Rasta Reggae Radio" station in Jamaica--a media outlet that may have made some people nervous. According to an audio tape Tosh left behind--one of the Red X tapes the singer had planned to use for his autobiography--he may even have had a premonition of his death. "It is dangerous to have the

truth in your possession. You can be found guilty and be sentenced to death."

Having established these potentially ominous facts, Campbell shifts gears. Using excepts from Tosh's Red X tapes as well as interviews, concert clips and found footage, the director traces Tosh's rise from a churchgoing country boy to a reggae star.

As for his music, there is a fair amount of concert footage, but the glimpses of Tosh's early success in the Wailers, a group he formed with Bob Marley and Bunny Wailer, are the most eye-opening--particularly Tosh's claim that "Marley was my student." Tosh also ruffles feathers with political

diatribes about the poor during his concerts.

Working chronologically, Campbell returns to the murder, splicing in a murky, impressionist recreation of the event. Some of Tosh's friends who witnessed the attack try to piece the murder together. The end credit sequence reveals that police never identified two of the killers. The third man,

Leppo, was convicted, but denies a role in the murder.

RED X fails to deliver on the promise it sets forth, leaving the intrigue that surrounds Tosh's murder dangling in the wind. While interviews imply some kind of foul play, director Campbell can't shed any light on the murder beyond sheer rumor and thus deprives his film of any sense of payoff.

The film itself seems lazy. There are no interviews with the police involved, or the owners of the radio station Tosh wanted to buy. There is no smoking gun. Without one, wading through the film--which has difficult audio sections and some confusing subtitles--is disappointing, to say the least.

(Profanity, substance abuse.)

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  • Released: 1993
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: STEPPING RAZOR - RED X is a documentary on the life of reggae star Peter Tosh, a politically aware singer who was murdered in Jamaica in 1987. Unfortunately, the film is neither an expose on Tosh's controversial death, nor a particularly cogent summary of… (more)

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