tue 13/11/2018

Yardie review - Idris Elba shoots straight in his directorial debut | reviews, news & interviews

Yardie review - Idris Elba shoots straight in his directorial debut

Yardie review - Idris Elba shoots straight in his directorial debut

Adaptation of Victor Headley's novel is a rich palette of sights and sounds

Righteous or damned: Aml Ameen as D in 'Yardie'

The first significant British film to explore the influence of Jamaican sound systems in London was Babylon. Shot in 1980, its street patois was deemed impenetrable enough to merit subtitles. Times change. Yardie revisits the same world and era – it is bookended by heaving get-togethers in which sound systems pulse and throb. But there are no subtitles and one of the film’s pleasures, alongside the music of the soundtrack, is the music of the dialogue.

For his debut behind the camera, Idris Elba has adapted the 1992 novel by Victor Headley about a young man tasked with the age-old choice between the righteous path and the damned, between salvation and perdition. It opens in the lush outback of Jamaica where Dennis (Antwayne Eccleston), better known as D, has been sequestered for his own safety as gang warfare rips up the streets of Kingston. His older brother Jerry Dread (Everaldo Creary) drives a truckload of mega-speakers into no man’s land between the two territories and preaches peace and harmony through the medium of pounding reggae, only to be fatally shot by a kid wielding a pistol. D is soon adopted as the gopher of piratical drug lord King Fox (Sheldon Shepherd). Once he’s reached adulthood (Aml Ameen takes over the role), tasked with delivering a packet of cocaine to a pusher called Rico (Stephen Graham) in London.Shantol Jackson in YardieThe film thus takes a wild flying leap from the hot primary colours of the Caribbean to the London of dingy basements, rainy streets and council blocks. There D opts to keep the coke for himself and go into business with a Turkish dealer. At the same time he attempts to rekindle his romance with childhood sweetheart Yvonne (Shantol Jackson, pictured above), who is bringing up their baby daughter a safe distance from the bullets of Kingston.

Perhaps out of respect, the script by Brock Norman Brock and Martin Stellman never quite grows away from the canonical source, paying homage via frequent voiceover quotations. A bit like Stephen Graham’s coke-snorting druglord and his cartoon hoodlums who flip comically between accents, there's a sense that Yardie doesn’t quite know which side of the aisle it belongs. While D commutes between street violence and domestic contentment, the film wavers tonally between a bloody gun-toting blaxploitation caper with lashings of rich Jamaican banter, and a more intense and personal revenge drama. The comedy is a pleasing surprise given Idris’s back catalogue as a serious actor. D’s pursuit of redemption, as he hunts for the killer of his brother, feels less daring and more conventional. But Yardie is a lively, smartly shot and impeccably designed entertainment, featuring an excellent British and Jamaican cast, and it’s a welcome snapshot of an important moment in Anglo-Caribbean culture.

@JasperRees

The film thus takes a wild flying leap from the hot primary colours of the Caribbean to the London of dingy basements, rainy streets and council blocks

rating

Editor Rating: 
3
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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