The reviews got it wrong with Yardie, it’s far from average.
Idris Elba’s directorial debut brings the novel Yardie to the big screen. From the streets of Jamaica to the streets of London, this is a gangster film with a cultural twist. Violence is rife, revenge is at the heart of the story, and drugs run throughout. But this isn’t just another rip-off of The Godfather.
Aml Ameen plays Dennis “D” Campbell, whom we first meet in Jamaica as a child. His family live in a rough area that’s taken over by a war between two local gangs. When things take a bad turn after his brother attempts to make peace, Dennis is taken in by drug lord, King Fox (played by Sheldon Shepherd). He gets sent to London to deliver a drug package to British gangster, Rico (played by Stephen Graham). But that’s exactly where Campbell’s life gets messy.
Ameen plays the role of Dennis in such an incredible way, he often carries the film by himself. He’s hell-bent on revenge, desperate to take down the person who killed a member of his family. This person so happens to be in London as well. Although you wish he could move on from what happened, get out of the drug-selling scene, and lead a safer, happier life, you also can’t help but root for him the whole way through the movie.
His love interest, Yvonne (played by Shantol Jackson) offers some peace, kindness and inner strength during such turbulent scenes. The relationship between herself and Dennis, as well as Yvonne’s young daughter, shows a softer side to him. But it also gives us an insight into the strength and stability that a woman must possess when she’s a single mother – especially of colour – living in London.
The majority of the film is in Patois, which means if you’re white, at times you may not fully understand a sentence, or mishear a word, but the authenticity this brings to the film is more than worth it. It’s commendable that the film isn’t trying to cater to whiteness. The juxtaposition when Jamaica meets punk is also a brilliant show of inclusivity with outsiders.
“The juxtaposition when Jamaica meets punk is also a brilliant show of inclusivity with outsiders.”
The only significant white character in the film is Rico, the gangster residing in London. He’s British, yet speaks in Patois most of the time in an attempt to keep the power. It plays into cultural appropriation, an issue that wasn’t only rife then, but perhaps is even more now. Although when he occasionally slips back into cockney, we see how vicious he truly is.
I’m not a fan of gangster films, in fact I’m not into crime drama’s in general, but this one I enjoyed. I enjoyed it a lot. It explores two opposing cultures, and brings them together over the one thing they share – drug (and ultimately money) greed. It causes you to question your own narrow view on situations that trigger emotions. Ultimately, not only is the film stuck in your head for days to come, but it leaves you debating your own morals.
Elba can pat himself on the back for creating a gangster film that felt so much more than a gangster film. The reviews may be giving a mediocre view, but that simply doesn’t give the film justice. If this is his debut, it’s exciting to see what other films he’ll be directing in the future.