Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Aml Ameen in Yardie
"The performances are powerful and Idris Elba's ability to recreate the feel of the times is impressive." | Photo: Alex Bailey

Someone mentions Kingston, Jamaica, and you think of Bob Marley. After the music, what? Ackee and saltfish, paradise beaches?

After the music comes violence, drugs, gangs.

When travelling along a familiar train of thought you cannot help tripping over cliches. Advice to newbie filmmakers: use them, don't abuse them. Idris Elba may be fresh in the director's chair but as an actor he's covered the bases. There is no feeling of nervousness now. He controls his vision. He doesn't compromise.

Dennis (Ami Ameen), who will later be known as D, grew up in rural poverty. Life was not desperate, like the children of conflict, but restricted. As a boy he was ambitious which meant he found a way of drifting to the city with his brother who set up music parties in market places.

After a tragic accident his brother is killed and D witnesses it. King Fox (Sheldon Shepherd), a music producer and leader of one the gangs, takes care of D who learns to jive to King's criminal vibes.

"Will you go with the righteous or will you go with the damned?" he was asked when he was younger. He wanted to stay with the righteous but ends up with the damned.

King sends him to London with a kilo of cocaine. It is 1983. He cuts off his dreds and buys a suit. He sees himself as a contender, not a messenger, when making contact with Rico (Stephen Graham), Hackney's drug tsar. He reunites with Yvonne (Shantol Jackson), his childhood sweetheart, who works as a nurse, and discovers that the man who killed his brother also lives in the city.

At this point familiarity raises its head and you think, here we go again with the clash of themes, wrapped in a Caribbean flag and whipped raw by endemic violence. On the one hand a desire for revenge and on the other D's love for a woman who wants nothing to do with his criminal life.

The performances are powerful and Elba's ability to recreate the feel of the times is impressive. This includes an insistence on keeping the language real which, for white folks, requires subtitles, which are not included. Not yet.

Reviewed on: 27 Aug 2018
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Gang wars in Kingston in the Seventies are imported into Hackney in the Eighties affecting the life of a Jamaican boy who seeks vengeance for the murder of his brother
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Read more Yardie reviews:

Jennie Kermode ****

Director: Idris Elba

Writer: Brock Norman Brock, Martin Stellman, based on the novel by Victor Headley

Starring: Aml Ameen, Shantol Jackson, Stephen Graham, Sheldon Shepherd, Everaldo Creary, Mark Rhino Smith, Calvin Demba, Naomi Ackie, Frazer James, Akim Gazi, Jumayn Hunter

Year: 2018

Runtime: 101 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: UK


Sundance 2018

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