REVIEW: Yardie

August 31, 2018

Director: Idris Elba
Screenplay: Victor Headley, Brock Norman Brock, Martin Stellman
Starring: Aml Ameen, Stephen Graham, Akin Gazi
Runtime: 101 Minutes

 

★★★☆☆

 

Directed by Idris Elba, based on parts of the cult 90s novel by Jamaican-born writer Victor Headley, Yardie (a term for a person of Jamaican origin used within the Caribbean expatriate and Jamaican diaspora community) charts the journey of a young Jamaican man named D (Aml Ameen), who has never fully recovered from the murder of his older brother (Everaldo Creary).

 

Dispatched by a Kingston Don (Sheldon Shepherd) to see through business with Stephan Graham’s Rico, he tries to reconnect with his estranged wife (Shantol Jackson) and daughter by forging a new life before the re-emergence of his brother’s killer takes him down a more violent, vengeful path.

 

Ameen is a talented actor in a lively role, but can’t really hold the attention of the audience outside of some of the larger emotional beats. He’s drowned out all too often by the louder supporting cast, especially Graham is the turbulent standout, a psychopathic gangster with a wannabe personality drifting between his natural and a faux Jamaican accent.

 

Elba directs rather well, with a great attention to period detail, an affection for the setting and especially the pulsating sounds of its rocksteady and reggae soundtrack in the midst of UK sound-system. But there’s a lack of drive in the pace that comes from a not terribly interesting narrative that fumbles all too often into melodrama that feels out of step with its setting and execution, and a heavy reliance on voiceover to fill in gaps and overexplain the plot mechanics.

 

Yardie keeps its head just above water when it’s inhaling the sensations of the period, with a strong emphasis on the immigrant journey and the healing power of a community, but lacks an engagement necessary to keep its narrative from feeling run-of-the-mill.

 

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