Director: Idris Elba
Cast: Antwayne Eccleston, Fraser James, Aml Ameen
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Idris Elba is a man who needs no introduction – the kind of actor you can recognise from just his shadow. He steps behind the camera for Yardie, his directorial debut, and it’s a commendable first effort, albeit one that’s missing the clout usually associated with his presence on-screen.
Yardie whisks us back to the 1970s, when D (Aml Ameen) heads from Jamaica to London – sent there to ship some drugs by music producer King Fox (Sheldon Shepherd), after D causes trouble seeking revenge for his murdered brother, Jerry. The result is a drama fuelled by personal grief and redemption as much as gangland warfare – and a whole lot of interesting questions are thrown up, particularly in 2018, about the internal and external struggle to claim a sense of identity in another country.
That, however, doesn’t always translate into the most coherent or compelling story, with Norman Brock and Martin Stellman’s script (based on Victor Headley’s novel of the same name) not always managing to maintain momentum for its uneven 100 minutes. It doesn’t help that the plot feels like something we’ve seen many times before, as we chart D’s journey from well-meaning lad to corrupted member of the underworld. It’s telling that the best scenes involve Ameen and Shantol Jackson as D’s estranged girlfriend, Yvonne, who reconnect in London; Jackson’s superb turn, and their easy chemistry, leaves you wishing their was more screen time for her story.
Elba, though, steeps the whole affair in style, from the brightly coloured period costumes and backdrops to the community culture vibrantly represented by the thumping soundtrack. If the script lacks the substance to back up its cool, Elba undoubtedly announces himself an adept actor’s director: he coaxes a remarkably good performance from Aml Ameen as D, and allows us to enjoy Stephen Graham going hell for leather as an unhinged East End gangster, Rico. Together, their performances and Elba’s serious grappling with the themes of Headley’s novel, as well as its patois, give Yardie a a distinct voice. It’s not quite City of God, but there’s enough here to make you intrigued to see whatever Elba makes next.
Yardie is available to watch online on Amazon Prime Video as part of a £5.99 monthly subscription.
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