(director/writer: Idris Elba; screenwriter: novel by Victor Headley/Brock Norman Brock/Martin Stellman; cinematographer: John Conroy; editor: Justine Wright; music: Dickon Hinchliffe; cast: Aml Ameen (D), Antwayne Eccleston (Young D), Fraser James (Pier), Everaldo Creary (Jerry Dread), Shantol Jackson (Yvonne), Stephen Graham (Rico), Sheldon Shepherd (King Fox), Rayon McClean (Skeets), Naomi Ackie (Mona), Akin Gazi (Arif), Calvin Demba (Sticks), Johann Myers (Beenie), Adnan Mustafa (Engin), Jumayn Hunter (Tyrone), Duramaney Kamara (Darkers); Runtime: 101; MPAA Rating: NR3; producers: Gina Carter, Robin Gutch; Rialto Pictures; 2018-UK)
“The result is a film with promise but one that doesn’t live up to its cult film potential.“
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
The directorial debut of the British actor Idris Elba (whose lineage is North African) is not so hot but the Jamaican street scenes seem authentic. Also, the low-budget gangster B film is visually pleasing thanks to the great cinematographer John Conroy. The title is Caribbean slang for criminal. Yardie is based on the popular for Jamaicans pulp fiction 1992 novel by Jamaican author Victor Headley. Writers Elba, Brock Norman Brock and Martin Stellman adapt it to the screen.
It tells of a London crowded with ex-pat Jamaican kingpins, drugs, violence and gang activity. For the film, Hackney, in east London, subs for Brixton. It’s where Idris Elba grew up.The charismatic antihero protagonist is a hard guy to like. He’s a dumb drug dealer with swag from Jamaica named Dennis but called D for short (Aml Ameen, North London-born). He arrives at Heathrow with a kilo of cocaine taped under his clothes that the Kingston drug-lord, King Fox (Sheldon Shepherd), gave him to deliver to a London drug-dealer named Rico (Stephen Graham-his father is half-Jamaican) but fails to do so. The 20-year-old is haunted by the death of his non-violent DJ older brother Jerry (Everaldo Creary), and avenging his death is never far from his thoughts-especially when learning the killer is in London.The sweet Jamaican, Yvonne (Shantol Jackson), plays the mother of D’s child, and he meets her again in London where she resettled. She might be the best thing about D’s life and the film.
There’s an early-70s backstory, shot in Kingston and Trench Town, that apprises us of the gang wars going down. Antwayne Eccleston plays the young D. It then switches to the present in the 80s, in London, with Aml Ameen as D. After all the smoke clears and all the gangster cliches clear, it becomes apparent Elba wants to acquaint a white mainstream audience with the unfamiliar Jamaican Afro-gang culture transported to London. It tries to find its path as a struggling immigrant film and tries to put a positive spin on its crime story by telling us the inner city is going through a healing process that will soon change things for the better.
The result is a film with promise but one that doesn’t live up to its cult film potential. As a kicker, it delights us with an evocative soundtrack of Jamaican reggae sounds.
REVIEWED ON 3/1/2019 GRADE: B- https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/