Idris Elba Directs an Uneven Jamaican Gangster Flick
Yardie is the first feature film of the British actor Idris Elba. An epic gangster drama set in Jamaica and England, the film is an adaptation of Victor Detroit's successful crime novel. The music and the cultural elements are striking. The Elbe vividly describes life in the ghettos of both countries. The faults reside in a persistent narration, an uneven writing and a third clumsy act. Yardie will make you lose your mind to the great reggae soundtrack, but unfortunately it will be far away in many places. is a slang term for a Jamaican abroad. The film begins in 1973 in Kingston, where two warring bands have spread violence in the Trench Town neighborhood. Jerry Dread (Everaldo Creary), a peace-making DJ, is trying to unite the factions. His noble efforts end tragically, leaving his younger brother, "D" (Antwayne Eccleston), discouraged, alone. The boy is supported by gangster King Fox (Sheldon Shepherd), who teaches him to survive on the street.
Ten years later, an adult D (Aml Ameen) is a trusted soldier of King Fox; who developed in a record label and cocaine. D is sent to London to develop the drug trade. His arrival does not go as planned. D steals King Fox's partner (Stephen Graham) as he tries to reconnect with his ex-girlfriend (Shantol Jackson) and their daughter (Myla-Rae Hutchinson-Dunwell). Just when he thought that London could not be more complicated, D realizes that a long-sought enemy is also there.
Let's start with what works. In all transparency, I am a Jamaican, born at that time, and I was curious to know how Idris Elba would react to the violence that tore Kingston apart in the seventies. He does not pull a fist. Elba shows death and tragedy unvarnished. These first scenes are real building blocks for the characters. When the adult D lands in a cold and rainy London, he fits perfectly into the Jamaican immigrant community. The music and culture brought by Jamaicans has become an indelible part of British society. The best moments of Idris Elba as a director accurately describe life in ghettos in two very different countries.
The soundtrack of Yardie is a strong point. From the reggae roots of the seventies to the dancehall MCs of the eighties, the music of Yardie is essential to understanding the characters. Jamaican reggae music has conquered the world. The words and the transcendent rhythms were a window on the soul of the country and its inhabitants. D aspires to make music like his brother. A subplot was blown away by this dream in London and by the local dancehall "clashes". Idris Elba is also a renowned DJ. It brings to the big screen the contagious energy of dancehall.
Yardie has a voice on flawless narration. This is a sign of a weak script and becomes a crutch for the plot. D literally explains each major development from beginning to end. The constant buzz kills lead in the third act. At this point, the resolution is obvious and the characters follow the movements. The only thing that kept my interest in the finale was the music.
Yardie is subtitled because of the Jamaican patois and the old British slang. Idris Elba does a good job with cultural realism. Crime and interpersonal drama are not as successful. I will give Yardie a slightly positive nod to give life to a Jamaican novel. These stories are rarely told. Yardie is a Warp Films production distributed by Rialto Pictures and Studio Canal.