Yardie a disappointing debut for first time director Idris Elba

Actor turned first time feature director Idris Elba helms the London and Jamaica-set revenge thriller Yardie

Aml Ameen as D in Yardie
Damon Smith

YARDIE (15, 102 mins) Drama/Thriller/Romance.

Starring: Aml Ameen, Sheldon Shepherd, Shantol Jackson, Stephen Graham, Riaze Foster, Antwayne Eccleston, Everaldo Creary. Director: Idris Elba.

Rating: 3 stars

VIEWED against a dispiriting backdrop of violent crime across London, gritty coming-of-age story Yardie is the wrong film in the right place at the right time. Sadly.

Adapted from a novel by Victor Headley, Idris Elba's feature directorial debut is an uneven and emotionally unsatisfying drama set in 1970s Jamaica and 1980s London.

The cast's thick, melodic accents render some of the leaden dialogue in Brock Norman Brock and Martin Stellman's script unintelligible (to my untrained ear) and contribute to a lack of emotional investment in characters as they wrestle with their desires, doomed to repeat the tragic mistakes of the past.

Drawing on his background as a DJ, Elba evokes the era with a soundtrack of reggae and soul, which also provides key scenes with a satisfying tempo.

The film opens in 1973 Kingston, a capital stained with the blood of innocent bystanders caught in the crossfire of the rival Tapper and Spicer gangs.

Ten-year-old Dennis Campbell, aka D (Antwayne Eccleston), lives with his older brother and idol, Jerry Dread (Everaldo Creary), who is determined to end the bitter feud through the power of music.

Jerry organises a block party on neutral ground, which momentarily unites the warring factions beneath garlands of twinkling lights.

A gunshot rings out, the crowd scatters and D watches in horror as Jerry becomes the latest casualty of the turf war.

A decade later, D (now played by Aml Ameen) is a lieutenant for music impresario King Fox (Sheldon Shepherd), who dispatches his best man via plane to England with a consignment of drugs strapped to his body.

D senses something is awry at the handover and he flees the lair of hardman Rico (Stephen Graham), barely escaping with his life.

Newcomer D seeks refuge with his estranged wife Yvonne (Shantol Jackson) and their child but Rico and his gun-toting goons are determined to track down their man.

In a cruel twist, Jerry Dread's murderer Clancy (Riaze Foster) is also in London and D scents an opportunity to avenge his brother.

"This thing ain't gonna stop until Clancy is dead!"

Sadly, for us, that's true and the film grinds through the gears before an inevitable showdown, coldly staring down the barrel of a gun.

Yardie is a depressingly familiar tale of macho posturing, failed ambition and deep-rooted grief that lacks a distinctive voice behind the camera.

Ameen possesses a natural likeability while Graham chews scenery with glowering intent as his villain slips into Jamaican patois.

The romantic subplot remains on a gentle simmer as Elba refuses to turn up the heat on his characters until it's too late.

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