‘Yardie’ Theatrical Review
Even with the blood that can flow in the streets of the United States today, we often forget how much worse it is in other parts of the world. Violence is universal, and it’s something that impacts many people; even in the inspired fictional stories we often see.
Based on the 1992 book by Victor Headley, Yardie is set in 1970’s London Borough of Kingston and 1980’s Borough of Hackney and focuses on the life of a young Jamaican man named D (Aml Ameen). His young life becomes tragic, with a gang war in his village taking the lives of some of his classmates and eventually of his only living family, older brother Jerry Dread (Everaldo Creary). Jerry’s cry for peace, not only to the village but also to D, is lost with his last breath.
As Kingston moves on from the gang war, the violence remains. D’s daughter – who he’s not seen since she was a baby – and her mother, Yvonne (Shantol Jackson), are in London to escape the violence. But D is grooming himself as King Fox’s number one, using his anger and pain to become a weapon for the up-and-coming drug lord.
With King Fox needing D to get back to handling business without losing his cool, he sends him to London where the possibility of a reunion with his love and his daughter might temper his anger. But revenge continues to consume Dand his path.
No matter what you think about the film, Yardie is catching the attention of fans and critics everywhere due to it being Idris Elba’s directorial debut. Elba, who does very little wrong in the eyes of this critic, is a sensational power in Hollywood, and his ability to carry a scene is definitely not the same behind the camera as it is when he’s in front of the camera.
From one country to the next, a generation growing from child to adult, and everything else changing, Elba weaves a consistent web with the use of a phenomenal soundtrack blasting reggae from Jamaica to London. The music sets the scene over and over again. Jerry Dread’s message of peace comes with a truck filled with speakers and a turntable. Drug-laced parties are moved by the music as well. Even the tragedies littered throughout are occasionally accompanied by the same tone in the soundtrack. That consistency allows all good and bad to come together under one umbrella, showing the audience it’s all intertwined in Headley’s original vision.
The acting is fairly strong, but it feels as if it’s missing the powerful lead a movie of this style and material requires. Ameen is a fine actor, but he can’t replicate what the man behind the scenes is capable of; not that I am typically one to compare but the valley of discrepancy is present nonetheless. The cast is strong enough to support Yardie, but support it and not carry it is as far as that goes.
Though I came into this wanting to never say a negative thing about Elba, it’s truly not those in front of the screen that keep Yardie short of a powerful independent debut. Material adapted from page to screen is often criticized by many, and that’s due to the level of difficulty that comes with getting the same message across using a different medium. Moving the narration over from the book stunts the ability of the movie to make extremely powerful moments break down the audience’s emotional barrier. Where somebody is being removed from the equation, the quick pacing of the scenes and the aforementioned narration makes that death feel less important. The big meetings, reunions, and fights are all impacted as well.
I wanted to love Yardie, and maybe with Elba’s name attached my expectations were just too high for his directorial debut at an independent studio. The cinematography is strong, the direction feels great at times, and the acting does enough. Yardie is a strong concept with glimpses of brilliance and a phenomenal soundtrack, but somehow it just doesn’t deliver. At the same time, I see more in the future for Elba in the director’s seat and some of the cast, especially the adolescent stars.
Worth A View, Not A Purchase
Going in with high expectations on Idris Elba’s directorial debut possibly doomed Yardie being loved by me. But the movie has its positives and is worth at least a viewing.