Review: YARDIE Is A Solid Directorial Debut From Idris Elba

FIRST IMPRESSION

Yardie is a solid directorial debut from Idris Elba, with a very interesting story, solid execution, and compelling characters.

REVIEW OVERVIEW

Writing
Directing
Acting
Technical Merit

Yardie is a new crime drama based on the novel by Victor Headley that serves as the directorial debut of Idris Elba. The film tells the story of a young Jamaican man in London who is caught between a life of crime and redemption when he encounters the person who shot and killed his brother in his childhood. It debuted at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival and is finally making its way into theaters.

One of the most frustrating things about the film is that it is subtitled. Normally, subtitles aren’t a bad thing, but in this case, they were distracting because of how blatantly unnecessary they were. The film was in English, but the characters were speaking in thick Jamaican accents. Although it may not be the clearest, the dialogue definitely isn’t hard enough to require subtitles. Plus, they translated slang to more “accessible” forms. (For example, the “bloody” was changed into an Americanized profanity.)

The film’s story is rather straightforward, but it is effective nonetheless. The tale of the protagonist who is trapped between two worlds is an interesting story type, and this film does a very good job of utilizing that formula. It is obvious where the story is going to end up, but because it is so entertaining and has a great message, it gets a pass.

yardie lean
Aml Ameen in Idris Elba’s YARDIE (2018). Courtesy: Rialto Pictures/Studiocanal.

The film also succeeds in terms of characterization. The protagonist, D, is an extremely likable character. Although the things he does aren’t always the most admirable, he does have a lot of depth and complexity through his flawed traits. The relationships he has with other characters in the film, like his ex-girlfriend and their child, are used effectively to develop him further.

Because the film is just over an hour and forty minutes long, it moves at a breakneck pace. There is almost always something happening and very little downtime. The crime genre is known for providing films that are exciting and action-packed, and this film is no exception. Elba does a wonderful job of creating suspense and tension that builds up to a huge climax.

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Sheldon Shepherd in Idris Elba’s YARDIE (2018). Courtesy: Rialto Pictures/Studiocanal.

All of the actors do a solid job in their roles, but Aml Ameen, who plays the lead, is the absolute standout in the cast. He brings everything to the table and doesn’t hold back, giving one of the most charismatic and emotional lead performances from an actor this year so far. It will be interesting to see where he goes from here, as he deserves even more lead roles.

On a technical level, the film is good — just not particularly revolutionary. The cinematography and production design are both solid, giving the film a look that matches the tone and feel of the script and era well. However, real hero of the execution is the use of music, which helps build the tone and excitement of the film.

Overall, Yardie was a very solid crime film and a good directorial debut from Idris Elba. Although it has its fair share of issues, it’s a fun watch, so you should give it a chance.

Yardie opens in theaters March 15.

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Sean Boelman
Sean is a film student, aspiring filmmaker, and life-long cinephile. For as long as he can remember, he has always loved film, but he credits the film Pan's Labyrinth as having started his love of film as art. Sean enjoys watching many types of films, although some personal favorite genres include dramatic comedies, romantic comedies, heist films, and art horror.

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