Director: Idris Elba
Talent: Aml Ameen, Everaldo Creary, Sheldon Shepherd, Shantol Jackson, Stephen Graham
Released: 31 August
Based on the novel by Victor Headley, Yardie is the directorial debut of actor, DJ and perennial James Bond candidate, Idris Elba. The film, set against the backdrop of 1980’s London, follows Dee (Ameen), a Jamaican man who must choose between a peaceful life or avenging his brother’s death.
One thing Elba has excelled at is casting his leading man; Aml Ameen has a swagger and charisma that makes him a must-watch in the future. Alas, that only makes it more frustrating that he plays a protagonist of such startling idiocy and irresponsibility. Over the course of the film, he blatantly rips off a murderous gangster, endangers his family, and gets at least one of his associates killed. It’s incompetence on a scale one usually sees in a Seth Rogen action-comedy vehicle.
And yet, Yardie refuses to examine its central character’s actions in any meaningful way. A smarter film would use Dee’s destructive behaviour as means of interrogating the brooding machismo that leads to much death and suffering in the real world. Instead, Yardie is content to indulge his violent and haphazard quest for revenge, with the occasional lip-service to “choosing the righteous path.”
It’s a shame, because while Elba has mounted a handsome production with a killer soundtrack, he has nowhere near enough style to make such a brainless revenge tale worth watching. Only Stephen Graham, playing a crazed white Jamaican gangster, makes much of an impact, though sadly he has little to do except look menacing and snort copious amounts of fake coke.
There are enough well-crafted scenes and telling historical details here to suggest that Elba has an eye for directing. Let’s just hope that next time he pays more attention to the story he’s telling. That’d be a righteous path indeed.
Words: Jack O’Higgins