Yardie, based upon the book of the same name, is James Bond’s…sorry Idris Elba’s directional debut. It focuses on a young man who tries to escape his troubled past on the streets of Kingston, Jamaica, to London; only to remain on the same path that led him there in the first place. When he was a young boy, his peaceful older brother was gunned down by a ‘supposed’ member of a rival crew. It led D (Aml Ameen) to want revenge against the killer, only to find him on the streets of the East End where his old flame, and mother to his current child currently lives, in peace, away from the bloodshed.
I love Idris. He’s a brilliant actor and his performance as Stringer Bell in The Wire is the only reason I carried on watching it. I know, controversial, but christ that show is slow and tedious. As a director, well Yardie didn’t cut it for me. There were a lot of good things about it. The mise-en-scene was brilliant, in every scene I felt like I was in Jamaica in the 70′s, or Hackney in the 80′s. The music, the sets, the costumes were brilliant. King Fox, for example, just oozed class throughout the film. I was convinced by that. I just wasn’t convinced by the story. I wasn’t gripped. There seemed like a lot of ideas that put together, just created a complete jumble of nothing. At certain points in the film I thought to myself ‘ooo this is like City of God’ ‘oooo this could be Scarface’ ‘ooo this could be 8 mile’ ‘oooo this is could be This Is England’. But it didn’t pack a punch like these films did. I was disappointed that it felt like this, and this could be due to the trailer. A trailer that featured music that was prominent at the time the film was set, about a young man trying to find his way in the world, set in England and with action scenes. You tell me that isn’t a City-Of-God-8-Mile-This-Is-England-Scarface mash up and I shouldn’t get my hopes up about that.
The two lead actors were wonderfully chosen for the film. D (Aml Ameen) was very charismatic and lead the film superbly. Whilst the narrative was full of exposition, the acting was brilliant. Yvonne (Shantol Jackson) as the mother of his child and girlfriend was beautifully cast. She drove her scenes with the passion and emotion that she produced. She is a wonderful actress and she deserves to be in much more because in Yardie she was sublime. The worst thing for me about this whole thing though was the casting of Stephen Graham as Rico, one of the villains in the film and the drug dealer based in London. Stephen Graham is one of my favourite actors. As a character actor there aren’t many who come close to him. He deserves to be A-List. But my god what was going on here. I’m not annoyed that he was in the film. I’d cast him as anything. Working class hero. But throughout the film he put on a Jamaican accent, it wasn’t a bad accent but he kept flicking between this and the cockney accent because of Hackney. Now I was confused as to why the Jamaican accent was needed. I didn’t know if it was because he was trying to fit into the Jamaican community in London so he could get their respect and trust. He had Jamaicans working for him, who respected him, who at no point looked pissed off with him. Or if the character was culturally appropriating their lifestyle. By flicking between the two he is undermining them. But again, they were never any scenes where the other Jamaican characters looked pissed with him. I think it ruined the whole scene. He was much more menacing just doing the cockney accent. I cringed whenever the Jamaican accent was used.
2/5 Unfortunately as much as I was looking forward to it, and as much as I was hoping it would be amazing, it wasn’t. This could be down to the story not being originally written by Idris. There’s always a conflict when using an adapted screenplay. I hope and I’m sure we will see more of Elba in the director’s chair. There are far too many white, university educated film directors churning out the same pile of Hollywood crap. I want stories by a director from a working class background, I want stories from the Nigerian family, I want stories from the Muslim community. We need stories like Yardie to entertain, and more importantly, educate us. Just hopefully the next film from Idris is more entertaining than his first.
p.s I really hope Idris doesn’t become the next 007. And not because I’m a right-wing gammon. But because he’s too good of an actor to be tied down to such a dead franchise. For sure he’d make it exciting. He’d bring it to life and bring the charm back to it. But he’s too good to be stuck as Bond. I wouldn’t complain if he was, I’d rather it be him than Tom Hiddleston or Henry Cavill or *insert another generic middle class name here*