Wild Bill (2012)

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Taken at face value, Wild Bill’s thrusting, tatooed, clenched fists and bruised forehead, as seen on the poster, may lead to the assumption that the British, or more specifically The East End, crime caper is a genre that can only be sold on the back of the legacy of Guy Ritchie’s films. The need to add the predictable misery also fuels the idea that they must be “gritty”, “raw”, and in recent efforts, “uncompromising” to fully create a world in which, effectively, simple stories are told in faithfully believable miserable settings. Dexter Fletcher’s Directorial debut doesn’t let any preconceived notions get in the way of presenting a great story however. His film transcends the cliches. Assembling not just a wonderful set of players, this is a beautifully shot bittersweet comedy of dysfuntional family life. The tone, pace and writing (Fletcher shares the credit with Danny King) are all spot-on. If this is not one of the finest British films of 2012, it certainly is the most impressive British debut.

You will, no doubt, have guessed Fletcher’s love of the Western from the title alone. The East End world of grey tower blocks, old boozers and grim streets may seem a far cry from the dusty outposts, sleazy saloons and the inhospitable, desolate frontiers, but through the eyes of Fletcher, we get our lone ranger, in this case “Wild” Bill Hayward (Charlie Creed-Miles) who re-emerges after 8 years from prison for dealing drugs, to find his world is not as he left it. The mother of his two young boys has flown south essentially abandoning the 15 and 11 year olds, who it seems are doing quite well living in their flat avoiding detection from the authorities. To complicate matters Bill’s presence causes his old gang to come calling for his skills ensuring his plans to go clean are thwarted. However, the real hook in the film comes when Bill exposes the boys plight to the authorities forcing him to become their carer. The story of a father rekindling the bonds of family thus becomes the real strength of the film, to which Fletcher crafts an engaging tale. The dialogue is punchy but sincere. The young Will Poulter brings a genuine anger to his role as the older boy Dean, who has been playing protector to his younger brother and now feels the sting of losing his authority to his “dead beat” father. Fletcher gives Poulter an open hand, it seems, in allowing the young actor to show quite a lot of range. But it’s Creed-Miles’ Bill that constantly anchors the film from the father-son story to the man struggling to regain not only his dignity but also his freedom while keeping the dark forces at bay. Restrained and uncomplicated is how he plays it, the effect – genuine and sympathetic.

Credit must also be bestowed to Cinematographer George Richmond whose shots bring about something close to beauty in the bleakness, giving it a mood of optimism without any sentimentalism. Whether tracking a paper plane from the top of a tower block, to Bill stoicly holding up a sign post in the face of indignation, or deftly gliding through tower block corridors, the film opens itself to more than just an East End crime drama, but elicits real affection for the characters and Fletchers poignantly subtle social commentary.

Wild Bill is out on DVD & blu-ray 23rd July 2012.

Director: Dexter Fletcher
Writers: Dexter Fletcher, Danny King
Stars: Charlie Creed-Miles, Will Poulter and Liz White
Runtime: 98 min
Country: UK

Film Rating: ★★★½☆

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