The synopsis for Idris Elba’s 1980s gang-crime-drama, Yardie doesn’t exactly scream original. However, Elba, in his directorial debut, successfully taps into a community and culture, seldom explored on the silver screen. In so doing, he gives makes the film a unique cinematic experience.
The film actually starts off 1970s Jamaica, where we first meet a young Dennis Campbell, affectionately known as D, with his much adored big brother Jerry Dread (Everaldo Creary). In an attempt to call a truce between two rival gangs, Jerry decides to organise a neighbourhood party.
The party is a success, and the whole neighbourhood is partying to dancehall music, but a gunshot shatters the atmosphere resulting in Jerrys death. At the traditional ceremony nine nights after Jerry’s death, D refuses to let his brothers spirit go, he swears to avenge his death and true to tradition, the spirit continues to manifest itself to D in the form of a “duppy” (a malevolent spirit).
Fast forward to a decade later, D is under the mentorship of a crime lord, who involves him in a drug deal that requires him to fly to London. There, D reconnects with his childhood sweetheart Yvonne (Shantol Jackson) and his daughter in Hackney. D somehow finds himself embroiled in a turf war on the other side of the Atlantic. Following the traditional moral dilemma of a gangster thriller, D has to decide for himself what the righteous path is and how to get on it.
Despite a sea of mixed reviews, the film was well received by audiences at the Black Star International Film Festival. The authentic patois spoken by the cast and references to indigenous Jamaican culture, were especially relatable to the predominantly African audience. The music, which pays homage to classic 1980s dancehall and sound systems, is well placed to accentuate the plot of each scene.
Yardie is based on the 1990s novel of the same name by Victor Headley, a Jamaican – born British author. Although packed with drama and action it is difficult for the audience to commit and relate to Ds journey as our main protagonist as Jerry whom he idolises would not approve of the decisions he is making in his name. Regardless the cast is excellent, with standout performances by Aml Ameen, Stephen Graham and Shantol Jackson. Although I would not watch this movie twice, it is a decent watch everyone should experience.
Earlier this year Idris Elba, to the shock and horror of women all over the world, proposed to his girlfriend , Sabrina Dhowre, at a screening of Yardie
adding to the excitement of his directorial debut.
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