by Ian Morton
The gangster movie has a history that rarely changes from its traditional archetype. More often than not, the story usually revolves around a loveable antihero, a quest for power and the inevitable tragedy that pushes them deep into the criminal underbelly. Yardie seemingly defines itself by following these rules to the tee but ultimately ties itself in knots trying to fit everything in.
Based on the book of the same name, the story suffers from ‘adaptatitis’ (definitely just invented that), in that it tries to cover far more of the original material than a film this length really needs to. It begins by outlining a simple revenge plot and ends up evolving into a messy battle for character-arc supremacy. Never knowing what it truly wants to be, the result is a mix of unrefined plot points that struggle to be profound and a moral compass that has no idea where it’s pointing to.
What doesn’t help is the unimpressive linearity of the plot. After the opening few scenes, the film jumps from one sequence to the next, never really giving you more than you expect. As it tries to tick all the boxes, the ill-conceived plot boringly plods by, never offering more than the hundreds of other genre-flicks already in the public eye.
While the story itself suffers somewhat from a clunky plot, first time director Idris Elba doesn’t do a bad job behind the camera. The opening scene for instance is a confident and effective starting point, littered with an array of shots that echo some of the greats, such as City of God and Scarface. Pairing this with some interesting close-cam visuals, the result is a film that shows off the breakthrough directors fearless approach to filmmaking.
Although not really given a lot to work with, leads Aml Ameen and Shantol Jackson give solid performances in the face of confused character work. Ameen plays the cool yet broken antagonist ‘D’, while Jackson plays his estranged partner, Yvonne. Together, the two are a force to be reckoned with, even with the story doing its hardest to never be exciting.
Unfortunately Yardie is a film that promises much more than it ever gives. Thoroughly confused over what it wants to be, it never feels like it does itself justice in the wake of so many plot issues. If you look hard enough, there are a few gems to take away but all in all, this is a film that won’t have you aching for a sequel.