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MOVIE REVIEW: YARDIE (as part of the Mini British Film Festival)

| 3 November 2018 | Reply

MOVIE REVIEW: YARDIE (as part of the Mini British Film Festival)
Directed by Idris Elba
Starring Aml Ameen, Stephen Graham, Shantol Jackson
Reviewed by Shane Pinnegar

Idris Elba’s directorial debut tracks D (for Dennis, played by Aml Ameen)’s trajectory from happy-go-lucky thirteen year old in Kingston, Jamaica to the cusp of igniting a gang war in early-Eighties London.

Just as his acting simmers with subtle, nuanced restraint until reaching breaking point and exploding, so too does Elba’s direction of Yardie, though at times it walks a fine line through the treacherous waters of cliché.

Based on Victor Headley’s cult classic 1992 novel, Yardie observes D change when his elder brother, peace-loving sound system DJ Jerry Dread, is gunned down whilst trying to stop a gang war in the ghetto. Disturbing a traditional sending off ceremony, D believes he has unwittingly consigned Jerry to roam the earth forever as a Duppy – an unsettled, vengeful ghost.

Elba takes D to the brink of another gang war in Kingston, then into the cocaine drenched London of the early ‘80s, where amidst reggae sound system battles, rich Jamaican patois and urban squalor, the trash talking, coked up dealer Rico (Stephen Graham) takes instant affront to him.

The drug den scenes play all too familiarly – a bit of a low-rent Pacino from Scarface, or Oldman in True Romance. Perhaps we can call it the predictability of cocaine psychosis, but it’s been done before, many times. Also, if we’re going to nit-pick, then it’s worth noting that the timeline is a bit difficult to follow. One minute it’s 1973, punks with mohawks mill around, and then it’s the early ‘80s – but fashions and faces look pretty much the same.

Where Elba excels is in drawing out the conflicted nature of Ameen’s D, and giving us glimpses of his visions of his dead brother. Chilling and always a precursor to a dangerous choice for D, these appearances are expertly shot and go a long way to providing D motivation for his actions. D’s wife, Yvonne (Shantol Jackson) is a fierce mumma bear and grounds much of the movie with her rock solid performance.

What makes it a little difficult through the film, though, is wondering about whom we are supposed to cheer for. D is hell bent on revenge and respects no laws on his way to get it. He’s just as dangerous as the gangsters he works for or is opposed to, right up until his redemption at the end.

Elba shows eminent promise with Yardie: while it cannot avoid some of the stereotypes of its genre, he imbues it with enough passion and soul to make it enjoyably gripping. If anything, he crams the film so full of detail that it may take a couple of viewings to soak it all up, but to his credit he never bows and offers up a cheap climax for the sake of mindless titillation. Given time and repeated viewings, Yardie may even achieve a similar cult status to its source material.

Category: Movie & Theatre Reviews

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