Set in '70s Kingston and '80s Hackney, Yardie centres on the life of a
young Jamaican man named D (Aml Ameen), who has never fully recovered from
the murder, committed during his childhood, of his older brother Jerry
Dread (Everaldo Creary). D grows up under the wing of a Kingston Don and
music producer named King Fox (Sheldon Shepherd). Fox dispatches him to
London, where he reconnects with his childhood sweetheart, Yvonne (Shantol
Jackson), and his daughter who he's not seen since she was a baby. He also
hooks up with a soundclash crew, called High Noon. But before he can be
convinced to abandon his life of crime and follow "the righteous path", he
encounters the man who shot his brother 10 years earlier, and embarks on a
bloody, explosive quest for retribution - a quest which brings him into
conflict with vicious London gangster Rico (Stephen Graham).
Adapted from a novel by Victor Headley, Yardie marks Idris Elbas’s
directorial debut and, given the status that he has as an actor, it comes
with high expectations.
Sad as it is to say Elba’s first film is a hard watch. Part of the reason
is that the thick Jamaican accents make a lot of the dialogue hard to make
out. This makes for a story that’s hard to follow and it’s not helped by
nearly every character being totally unlikable. Stephen Graham, who is
normally excellent, plays Rico, a Jamaican London gangster, his performance
feels as if it’s a throwback to darker days when black characters were
played, badly, by white actors. What Elba was thinking with this piece of
casting is anyone’s guess.
The 70’s set direction is impressive as Elba misses none of the decade’s
Yardie is a depressing hard to watch movie that makes you feel that if it
had been told by a more experienced director it might have been a much
better watch than it is.
A missed opportunity.