Star Rating: ****
Nationwide Preview Screening: 23rd August 2018
Director: Idris Elba
Cast: Aml Ameen, Shantol Jackson, Stephen Graham, Fraser James, Sheldon Shepherd and Everaldo Creary
A Studio Canal film
Idris’s Elba’s Yardie opens with a bang and is banging throughout, literally with gunshots liberally peppering the story as well as the pulsing soundtrack of banging dancehall music throughout.
Idris tells the gripping story of a young Jamaican man, D (Aml Ameen), who never truly recovers from the murder of his older brother, Jerry Dread (Everaldo Creary), which took place whilst he was a youngster. That painful memory haunts him and many years later when in London he realises the killer is in his midst and set out to get bloody revenge.
Drug trafficking is a major part of the story and it is clear that he is actively involved in this in Jamaica and London, though whilst in London he is keen to get out of this but for various reasons, as you might imagine, it is not that straightforward when you’re in as deep as he is with the shady, dangerous characters orchestrating and dominating the drug trade. That generates a great deal of danger, excitement and tension, not just for D but for the viewer.
As a backdrop to this major storyline, whilst in London D reconnects with his childhood sweetheart, Yvonne (Shantol Jackson), and his daughter, who he’s not see since she was a baby. D’s dilemma is how to establish and maintain a relationship with his ex and daughter whilst extracting himself from the lucrative but personally (for himself and family) life threatening drugs business. In an additional sub-plot, as if D’s not got enough to contend with, he’s also seeking revenge on the man who killed his brother.
Yardie is a gripping tale from start to finish with numerous exciting and tension filled plots going on simultaneously. Some of the best moments included the authentic, captivating Jamaican dancehall vibe captured on screen, evoking an intense, serious, dangerous vibe, which was simultaneously quite alluring due to the catchy and danceable music. It conveys a heady mix of good times being had on the dance floor with the simmering tensions and battles going on in smoky rooms behind the scenes that threatened to spill out onto the dance at any moment.
I thought Aml played the part of D well, although looks wise and in his portrayal I would have to say he wasn’t truly convincing as a Yardie gangster. The scenes where he entered the lion’s den unarmed and alone were not realistic as I just don’t think someone in his position would put their life at risk to do that.
Nonetheless, he successfully demonstrated the dilemma between forgiveness or not forgiving and the harm failure to forgive can bring upon the un-forgiver. It brings to mind a pertinent line from the Lord’s Prayer: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” It’s a powerful statement about how people should forgive others their sins, just as the Lord forgives you for your sins. In other words, not doing so is likely to cause the un-forgiver more harm than the person who committed the sin.
Yardie was very well directed by Idris Elba and the story flowed nicely, with the various story lines and sub-plots merging together. Although predominantly set in London, it was great to see Jamaica on film.
Just as this is Idris’s directorial debut, Yardie was also Victor Headley’s first published book, back in 1992. It’s taken a long time, 26 years, to get to the big screen, but it was worth the wait.
A nice touch before the film was shown was previewing a world exclusive cover of the Bob Marley classic ‘Johnny Was’ by his grandson Skip Marley.
The preview was preceded and followed by music and Q&A. Unfortunately technical difficulties meant the audience had to watch repetitive, rolling screen image for 25-30 minutes, with no trailers. That was awful. I was told the reason was technical difficulties and they couldn’t show anything else due to it going out live simultaneously across England to around 200 cinema’s. That was poor and just not good enough. It’s 2018. When the link worked we were treated to a few songs from Rapper Kano, which were nice enough but seemed somewhat superfluous and irrelevant to the main business of screening a brand new film preview.
The preliminary Q&A by Radio 1 Xtra’s Yasmin Evans with Idris was interesting enough. At the film’s conclusion the audience were told there was a problem with the link up and they might want to leave as they didn’t think they’d be able to fix it, but within around 5 minutes it was up and working! Many had left by then. DJ Yasmin Evans proceeded to interview Idris and he gave some good answers including one on the topicality of the film and the near 100 murders in London thus far this year. He explained how he hoped middle agreed fathers would take their sons to see the movie so that the youths would realise the cycle of violence we’re seeing currently in London and across the country is not new, but has always been present.
Unfortunately the link to this cut out so I can’t comment on the rest of the Q&A. That was extremely disappointing. It didn’t detract from a wonderful film, but did spoil the night overall. That’s truly unacceptable in this day and age. If they couldn’t get the link right all they had to do was show trailers, pre-recorded videos and the main film. It’s everyday fare for a cinema so it’s a real shame that this appeared to prove so complicated. Maybe next time keep it simple and just show the film!
© Tiemo Talk of the Town