Combustible Celluloid
With: Aml Ameen, Shantol Jackson, Stephen Graham, Fraser James, Everaldo Creary, Akin Gazi, Mark Rhino Smith, Naomi Ackie
Written by: Brock Norman Brock, Martin Stellman, based on a novel by Victor Headley
Directed by: Idris Elba
MPAA Rating: NR
Language: English, with English subtitles
Running Time: 101
Date: 03/15/2019

Yardie (2019)

2 Stars (out of 4)

Sounds Off

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

The feature directing debut of Idris Elba, this crime drama is rich with atmosphere, but sadly weak in the storytelling department, its scenario riddled with lazy coincidences and passive behavior.

In Yardie, it's the early 1970s and a gang war rages the streets of Kingston, Jamaica. After the accidental shooting of a young girl, Jerry Dread (Everaldo Creary) takes his younger brother, D., to a remote village to live. One day, Jerry, a DJ, decides to stage a dance for peace, getting the two gang leaders to reconcile, but Jerry is shot and killed. One of the gang lords, King Fox (Sheldon Shepherd), takes the boy in.

Years later, the grown D. (Aml Ameen) is working for King Fox, first making reggae records and then dealing cocaine. King Fox sends D. to England to make a drug delivery to the nasty Rico (Stephen Graham), but D. runs out on the deal. He finds his old girlfriend Yvonne (Shantol Jackson) and meets a local "sound clash" crew. Through them, he is able to get rid of the cocaine, which help funds their sound gear. Meanwhile, Rico is on D.'s trail, but worse, D. discovers that his brother's killer is in London.

Based on a 1992 novel by Jamaican author Victor Headley, Yardie takes a fascinating look into that country and its culture, including dances, funerals, rituals, and music. When Elba deals curiously and clearly with these things, the movie comes alive, but when he resorts to using dialogue and narration to explain things to an international audience, the movie gets stuck in neutral. When the story arrives in London and the plot kicks in, things flag even more. (It's no The Harder They Come.)

It quickly becomes clear that the main character simply isn't very wise, and the entire plot is based around his poor decision-making. (You almost want the bad guys to win, just to stop him from inflicting any more damage on the people around him.)

The "sound clash" subplot provides some cool music, but it's all based on coincidence. What are the odds that D. would just happen to run into a "sound clash" crew that could help him sell his drugs? What are the odds he would be carrying a suitcase full of records from Jamaica, just to do a drug deal? Other elements likewise don't quite add up, and this potentially fascinating movie ultimately feels like a disappointment.

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