Yardie


“D” Fence.

(2018) Crime Drama (Amazon) Ami Ameen, Stephen Graham, Shantol Jackson, Mark Rhino Smith, Fraser James, Calvin Demba, Akin Gazi, Naomi Ackie, Philips Nortey, Antwayne Eccleston, Rayon McLean, Sheldon Shepherd, Christopher Daly, Reshawna Douglas, Alexandra Vaz, Chris-Ann Fletcher, Paul Haughton, Everaldo Creary, Carol Lawes. Directed by Idris Elba

Some of the greatest music ever made came out of the Jamaican reggae scene of the 70s. Some of the most brutal crime lords were also based in Kingston at the time. Dj Jerry Dread (Creary) believes that reggae can bring peace to warring factions, and invites the leaders of those factions to shake hands at a music festival he’s putting together. Instead, he gets gunned down by one of the durg lords for his troubles, witnessed by his little brother Dennis.

Now an adult going by the name D (Ameen), he is working for the other kingpin King Fox (Shepherd) who comes to the realization that D is far too unstable and violent for the island. He sends him to London to deliver a shipment of cocaine to Jamaican-born Rico (Graham), but D, feeling disrespected by Rico, decides to sell the shipment himself. This, as you might imagine, doesn’t go over well.

So D hooks up with his ex-girlfriend Yvonne (Jackson) and reconnects with the daughter that he hadn’t seen since she was a baby. He also means to make something of himself as a DJ (following in his late brother’s footsteps) while becoming a drug lord on his own. Then, when he finds out that the man who pulled the trigger that killed his brother is in London, he has a whole new project to concentrate on.

Ameen delivers a searing performance that will stay with you for quite some time. He’s one to keep an eye out for. In the meantime, he gets to play off of Graham, who doesn’t mind chewing the scenery somewhat. At times, one might be forgiven for wondering if they had tuned in a Guy Ritchie crime boss film by mistake.

The story isn’t particularly inspiring – D is far too volatile and self-destructive to be a protagonist that you’ll want to identify with – and it does drag a little bit in the middle, but it makes up for that with a climax that is bat guano crazy.

REASONS TO SEE: Ameen is charismatic as all hell.
REASONS TO AVOID: Drags somewhat in the middle.
FAMILY VALUES: There is a fair amount of profanity and violence as well as some drug content.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Jason has a twin brother Jeremy who is also an actor.
BEYOND THE THEATERS: Amazon
CRITICAL MASS: As of 1/31/22: Rotten Tomatoes: 54% positive reviews; Metacritic: 52/100.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: Peppermint
FINAL RATING: 7/10
NEXT:
Arctic Void

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Marley


The legend.

(2012) Music Documentary (Blue FoxBob Marley, Ziggy Marley, Cedella Marley, Rita Marley, Chris Blackwell, Jimmy Cliff, Cindy Breakspeare, Danny Sims, Diane Jobson, Lee Perry, Constance Marley, Bunny Wailer, Marcia Griffiths, Judy Mowatt, Bob Andy, Edward Seaga, Lloyd McDonald, Nancy Burke, Ibis Pitts, Hugh Creek Peart, Evelyn Dotty Higgins. Directed by Kevin McDonald

 

This re-release of the 2012 documentary is meant to celebrate the reggae icon, who would have turned 75 this past February 6th had it not been for his untimely death. The movie bills itself as the definitive biography of Bob Marley and there is truth in advertising.

Covering Marley’s life from early childhood to his final days, we see the privations of Marley’s childhood and teen years when he lived in poverty. A child of an interracial marriage (his father, whom he rarely saw and died when Bob was young, was white), he was bullied and often ignored by a culture that at the time had strict racial boundaries. If Marley was bitter about being ostracized by both sides of his parentage, he never showed it and instead preached a message of tolerance and brotherhood. He often went to bed hungry, going days between meals.

Along the way, filmmaker Kevin McDonald (The Last King of Scotland) talked to just about everyone who knew him, either in a professional standpoint (Island records chief Blackwell, backing vocalist Judy Mowatt, musicians Bunny Wailer and Jimmy Cliff, producer Lee “Scratch” Perry) and personally (his wife and several of his eleven children, boyhood friends, cousins, and a couple of his extramarital affairs). We don’t hear much from Marley himself – he granted few interviews while he was alive, preferring to let his music do his talking.

Following his rough childhood, he found acceptance in the Rastafarian faith, for which he would eventually become the symbol. Most Americans tend to focus on the dreadlocks and the use of ganja as a sacrament, believing that the followers were blissed-out stoners; many college students in the 70s and beyond had Marley posters on their dorm room walls – not because of the music but because it was a way of proclaiming a love for weed without overtly saying so. Trust American college students to miss the point (and I missed many and still do).

The music is front and center here and we hear both live and studio versions of most of his most recognizable hits. Yes, he sang about “One Love” and “Every Little Thing is Gonna Be Alright” but he also had calls to action like “Get Up Stand Up,” “Buffalo Soldiers” and “Redemption Song.” In researching this film, I came across a quote by a snooty West Coast film critic who sniffed that Marley “wrote the same song 7,000 times” which is ignorant at best. Yes, I understand that the reggae beat can get old if you listen to it long enough, but anyone who thinks that Marley’s catalogue is variations of the same song isn’t listening closely.

At two and a half hours long, the film requires commitment. I’m sure those who dislike reggae will be put off by that alone. However, even casual fans will find a lot to glean here, as the movie is chock full of rare footage and music that rarely gets played on the radio these days. Marley fans will find there’s  lot to celebrate.

For those buying tickets, be aware that with every ticket purchase, fans will receive a download pack for an exclusive Ziggy Marley – who appears prominently in the documentary – song and a chance to win exclusive Bob Marley merchandise. Click on the Virtual Cinematic Experience link below and a portion of ticket sales will go to various art film houses around the country.

REASONS TO SEE: Extremely informative. Shows a side of Jamaican culture most rarely see.
REASONS TO AVOID: A little bit overwhelming for the casual fan.
FAMILY VALUES:  There is a fair amount of drug use, some adult themes and violent images.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Bob Marley fathered eleven children with seven different mothers.
BEYOND THE THEATER: Virtual Cinematic Experience, Vudu
CRITICAL MASS: As of 8/6/20: Rotten Tomatoes: 95% positive reviews; Metacritic: 82/100.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: The Harder They Fall
FINAL RATING: 7.5/10
NEXT:
The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind