Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
Yardie Movie Poster Image
Strong atmosphere, weak story about drugs, killing, revenge.
  • NR
  • 2019
  • 102 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

One poor decision is made after another, and, despite lots of violence and destruction, there are virtually no consequences. Plus, movie seems to suggest that getting revenge is the best way to find happiness.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Almost every single one of main character's decisions are bad ones, endangering those around him. Plus he's bent on revenge.


Guns and shooting. Characters killed, including a small girl. Dead bodies and bloody wounds. A young girl is kidnapped. Young boys shoot guns. Fighting, punching, bashing in face with gun handle. Character strangled by phone cord. Machine gun fired in the air. Threatening with guns. Character hit by car. Smashing household objects. Tantrums.


Quick but mature sex scene shows a woman on top of a man, embracing him. Moaning; no nudity.


Extremely strong/frequent language, with countless uses of "f--k" and "p---y," plus "s--t," "ass," "piss," "goddamn," "idiot," "Jesus Christ" (as an exclamation).

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Main characters are drug dealers (cocaine). One character regularly snorts cocaine. Drug dealer opens package, snorts some for test. Pot smoking. Cigarette smoking. Bottles of rum shown.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Yardie -- the feature directing debut of actor Idris Elba -- is a mature crime drama set in the late 1970s and early 1980s in Jamaica and London. It has lots of violence, with guns and shooting, deaths (including a small girl who's accidentally shot), bloody wounds, punching/fighting and beatings, strangling, collisions with cars, and more. Main characters are cocaine dealers, and some of them are shown either testing or using cocaine. There's also casual pot smoking, cigarette smoking, and drinking. Language is extremely strong and frequent, with countless uses of "f--k" and "p---y," plus "s--t," etc. There's a brief but vivid sex scene that shows thrusting and moaning, while a woman sits in a man's lap. While Yardie is strong on atmosphere and music, it's a bit weak in the storytelling department.

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What's the story?

In YARDIE, it's the early 1970s, and a gang war rages in the the streets of Kingston, Jamaica. After the accidental shooting of a young girl, Jerry Dread (Everaldo Creary) takes his younger brother, D., to live in a remote village. Jerry, who's a DJ, decides to stage a dance for peace, getting the two gang leaders to reconcile, but Jerry is shot and killed. So one of the gang lords, King Fox (Sheldon Shepherd), takes young D. in. Years later, the now grown D. (Aml Ameen) is working for King Fox, first making reggae records and then dealing cocaine. King Fox sends D. to England to make a drug delivery to the nasty Rico (Stephen Graham), but D. runs out on the deal. He finds his old girlfriend, Yvonne (Shantol Jackson), and meets a local "sound clash" crew. Through them, D. is able to move the cocaine, which helps fund their sound gear. Meanwhile, Rico is on D.'s trail -- but, worse, D. discovers that his brother's killer is in London.

Is it any good?

The feature directing debut of Idris Elba, this crime drama is rich in atmosphere but sadly weak in the storytelling department. Its scenario is riddled with lazy coincidences and passive behavior. Based on a 1992 novel by Jamaican author Victor Headley, Yardie takes a fascinating look into Jamaica and its culture, including dances, funerals, rituals, and music. When Elba deals curiously and clearly with these things, the movie comes alive. But when he resorts to using dialogue and narration to explain things to an international audience, the movie gets stuck in neutral. When the story moves to London and more of the plot kicks in, things flag even more. (This is no The Harder They Come.)

It quickly becomes clear that D. simply isn't very wise, and the entire plot is based around his poor decision-making. (You almost want the bad guys to win just to stop D. from inflicting any more damage on the people around him.) The "sound clash" subplot provides some cool music, but it's all based on coincidence. What are the odds that D. would just happen to run into a "sound clash" crew that could help him sell his drugs? What are the odds that he'd be carrying a suitcase full of records from Jamaica? Other elements likewise don't quite add up, and this potentially fascinating movie ultimately feels like a disappointment.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Yardie's violence. How graphic is it? Is it intended to make you cheer or to shock you? What is the difference? What's the impact of media violence on kids?

  • How are drugs portrayed? Are they glamorized? Are there consequences for using or for dealing? Why does that matter?

  • What makes D. a compelling character? Did you still want to root for him even after all his iffy decisions?

  • How does the movie portray Jamaica? Does the culture there seem different compared to what you're accustomed to? Can you relate to the people who live there?

  • How important is music to the movie? What is "sound clash"? Did the movie encourage you to do further research into that concept?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love dramas

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