"Yardie" Review: A Run of The Mill Gangster Flick
The gangster film genre has been a favorite since the early beginnings of film. With its rags to riches story of a person who works their way up in the world is the American dream from a sinister angle. Based on the 1992 crime novel by Victor Headley, Yardie, Idris Elba’s directorial debut, walks and talks like a gangster film. It just doesn’t compare to the titans of the genre.
1973 Kingston, Jamaica is the setting for the opening of the film. A young Denis (Antwayne Eccleston), who goes by D, is in that phase of pre-teen life where even though the world around him is full of violence, he still has a chance to go down the right path. His older brother, Jerry “Dread” (Evelrado Creary) is trying to get the two warring factions of the community to put down their guns with a peaceful dance party. Unfortunately, the party ends when Jerry is gunned down by a local boy. This moment in time becomes the shift for D to the dark-side.
Six years later D (the older D is played by Aml Ameen) is now under King Fox (Sheldon Sheperd), one of the original gang leaders his brother was trying to have squash the beef, and a rising star in the organization. After D gets in hot water with a rival gang he’s sent to London to lay low and handle a cocaine drop overseas until things quiet down. Once there, D reunites with his Jamaican sweetheart and baby momma Yvonne (Shantol Jackson), who left Kingston with their baby for hopes of a better life. He also reunites with hot water.
Cinematographer John Conroy paints just the right amount of vibrant color for Elba’s Kingston, and desaturated Earth tones for a dreary London with his lighting scheme. Elba has a good handle on using the camera to tell the story. Unfortunately, the screenplay from Brock Norman Brock and Martin Stellman just isn’t electric. The ensemble cast’s performances aren’t quite good enough to elevate the words on the page either. So what’s left is a stereotypical, predictable, gangster flick.
All things considered, if Elba had stepped into the role of D, he would have brought the gravity the film could have used to enhance its story. It still wouldn’t dismiss the fact that the screenplay doesn’t leave room for us to truly connect with and care for its main character. Much like Denis, Yardie is just another film caught up in an ever changing lineage of films like it ready to ascend to the throne of our collective top films in the genre.