A brother’s love can be one of the most powerful things in the world. Plenty of films have explored this dynamic divide and the emotional connection of sibling loyalty, with the results varying in skill and enjoyment.
Ever since his older brother, Jerry Dread (Emeraldo Creary), was killed right in front of his eyes at a peace rally, D (Aml Ameen) hasn’t been the same. A good soul who can’t stop moving between the light and dark of life, swearing revenge on the man responsible, yet trying to raise a family at the same time. For the past two decades, he’s struggled with a decision that could haunt him the rest of his life.
Welcome to the directorial debut of Idris Elba, Yardie. Brock Norman Brock and Martin Stellman adapted Victor Headley’s novel about a young man from Kingston, Jamaica seeking retribution, and the story is competent enough to hold one’s attention. Elba shows some visual dazzle in a few scenes, while others come off as amateurish and one climbing over the obvious learning curve of filmmaking.
There’s ambition here, but with such a powerful story, I failed to connect to it until late in the film. In the opening scene, you are thrust into this world of violence between rival gangs in the rugged homeland of Jamaica. D and Jerry are a close knit group, separable only by death. However, when Jerry is taken away, you haven’t become invested enough in their relationship to build a foundation of care as D goes on the rampage, a run that takes him to London, where he runs into gangster troubles with Rico (Stephen Graham, leaning into the scum of a bad guy role).
Is there a twist waiting for you in the end? Of course. Right when you think D will just find the killer and take care of him in order to find peace, there’s something else thrown in: a political power move that throws an extra shade of gray on the film and characters. When it landed, I found myself wanting more. That’s the way I felt with this movie as a whole.
While there’s a powerful moral tucked away inside this film, I didn’t find much noteworthy about the film. The acting across the board is fine, but nothing stellar or anything that stands out the next day. There are a few well done action scenes which ratchet up the tension and pull you in, but they are followed by a 15-20 minute lull of useless exposition. Characters come and go, buying up real estate in the film without any real connection.
The plot often meanders when it should move, which only shows the cracks in the foundation of a filmmaker taking his first shot. Elba has style to burn, and I will be interested in his second effort. No one here is deeply interesting, and the film comes off as remote and amateurish instead of poignant and powerfully moving.
While I wouldn’t call it a bad film, I can’t recommend you pay ten dollars to see it. In a couple of weeks, I may forget all about it. At the end of the year, when I go over my film list, I will look at Yardie in my ledger and have to think about it for a minute. “Oh yeah, that’s the Idris Elba film” Instead of remembering a good movie, I’ll remember who directed it and that it was his first film.
The reggae-powered soundtrack is a kick, and the end credits song with Bob Marley’s grandson, Skip, was a nice touch. There’s some good choices here, but in the end, they don’t amount to something I would command you to watch.
Wait for Yardie to find you on the television. Unremarkable and rough around the edges, you can wait on this one.