Director: Idris Elba
Starring: Antwayne Eccleston, Fraser James, Aml Ameen
Runtime: 1 Hour 41 Minutes
What It Is: D (Aml Ameen), is growing up in 70’s Kingston when his older brother, Jerry Dread, is murdered before his eyes. Distraught, D is taken under the wing of a Kingston Don and music producer: King Fox. When Fox dispatches him to Hackney, D finds himself in direct battle with vicious London gangster Rico (Stephen Graham, This Is England) and is forced to choose between “the righteous path” and retaliation for his brother’s death.
What We Think: This is further evidence that you can’t simply shove a camera in a respected actor’s hand and call them a director. This confused, disjointed film marks the directorial debut of Idris Elba and after watching this I feel he should he should stick to working in front of the camera instead of behind it.
Adapted from Victor Headley’s 1992 coming of age cult novel about Denis (Aml Ameen) a drug runner in Jamaica in the early 1970s who eventually winds up on the deadly streets of 1980s East London (and on the wrong side of some ruthless gangsters), the riotous spirit of the era is lost in Elba’s lack of a clear, unified style and vision. This disappointment is heightened by Elba’s insistence on hasty and jumpy camerawork and unrefined directorial choices that make no sense when paired with the material. Get ready for a clutter of jarring camera angles of every cliché in the book (too many to list here).
Not helping matters is the fact that this is a boring story with equally uninteresting characters. The acting is overly theatrical in a distracting way that takes the viewer out of the gritty atmosphere. I had zero connection with any of the characters, and that’s a real problem in a film like this. The dialogue is far from stellar but you wouldn’t know it because, as with some Guy Ritchie films that came before, the heavy accents are at times so difficult to comprehend that this film could greatly benefit from subtitles.
Our Grade: D-, There’s the staggering feeling that Elba thinks he’s making a far more unique and profound film than he is when ultimately it evokes the feel of a TV pilot. Simply put, the film is a real chore to sit through and I found little to like about it.