In his directorial debut, Idris Elba brings his effortless sense of cool behind the camera; Yardie is embodied with his crackling energy as a performer, despite his staying well behind the frame. Unfortunately, the film suffers from a lack of confidence in its story and its performances, leaving it overly reliant on lead character D’s own narration. Antwayne Eccleston and Aml Ameen’s performances tell us everything we need to know about D’s inner turmoil, so Elba would have been better to ditch the narrator entirely.
Narratively, D’s gangland career repeatedly rests upon the kinds of misunderstanding and frustrating miscommunication that are usually relegated to bad rom coms. Gangsters are sensitive, sure – but a 30-second toilet break seems unlikely to prompt all-out war. At its best, Yardie relies on D’s own relentless thirst for vengeance to drive the plot, but often the film slips into cocksure posturing and cheeky-chappy antics. Stephen Graham is hilarious as wannabe yardie Rico, but his well-intentioned performance throws off the film’s more character-driven plotting.
As a period piece Yardie feels authentic and animated, and this is in large part due to the music – the best scenes are when D gets behind the mic or finds himself an unlikely member of a young DJ crew. Music is an integral part of the story Elba is telling in Yardie, and the thumping beats infect the film with a buzzing vibe that almost serves to distract from the film’s missteps.
A weak ending serves to cap this as a disappointing start to Idris Elba’s career in the director’s chair – but honestly, how many nail it on their first try? Given the clear talent displayed by Elba even as Yardie stumbles, it would be a crying shame if this legendary actor went back in front of the camera for good.
CAST: Aml Ameen, Mark Rhino Smith, Akin Gazi, Deepak Anand
DIRECTOR: Idris Elba
WRITERS: Brock Norman Brock, Martin Stellman
SYNOPSIS: Adaptation of the seminal 1993 Novel, Yardie tells the story of D in a gangster story split between ’70s Kingston and ’80s Hackney.[TRAILER FORTHCOMING]