Kingston, Jamaica, 1973. Rival gangs, the Tappas and the Spicer, are waging war in the ghetto. A young schoolgirl is caught in the crossfire, and that’s the last straw for Jerry Dread (Everaldo Creary). However, as he DJs music for peace in “No Man’s Land” – barren territory between both turfs – he is shot and killed. This forever impacts his brother’s life. D “for Dennis” Campbell (Antwayne Eccleston as Young D, Aml Ameen as grown-up D) is no longer on a righteous path. What will he ultimately choose?
Acclaimed actor Idris Elba makes his directorial debut with this gritty mean streets’ drug warfare thriller, set in both Jamaica, and in East London. “Yardie” is adapted from a best-selling novel by Victor Headley.
Elba is a natural storyteller, and effectively intertwines the worlds of Jamaican narcotics syndicates and the music industry, and colorfully captures an impoverished Kingston neighborhood’s way of life in the 1970s, and six years later, the dangers of drug trafficking in the Hackney district in London, which has a big Jamaican population, in the 1980s.
Aml Ameen is a charismatic lead, D, as he seeks revenge for his brother’s murder and reunites with his ex-girlfriend Yvonne (Shantol Jackson) and adorable daughter Vanessa (Myla-Rae Hutchinson-Dunwell). But as a courier working for his guardian King Fox (Sheldon Shepherd), he gets entangled with unsavory types.
The action is intense, the duels bloody, and Elba keeps us guessing as to whether D is on a path to redemption.
The story isn’t exceptional, but the performers are interesting. Elba has coaxed fine character work from a cast of largely unknowns and first-timers.
“Yardie” is a slang term for a Jamaican living in London who is likely mixed up with drugs. It demonstrates a strong sense of time, place and the proverbial dilemma to select the better path in life.