One of the first things that should be said about British actor Dexter Fletcher’s debut flick Wild Bill is: it is not a throw-away British gangster movie, or indeed really a gangster movie at all.
One of the first things that should be said about
British actor Dexter Fletcher’s debut flick Wild Bill is: it is not a
throw-away British gangster movie, or indeed really a gangster movie at all. The second thing to mention is: Fletcher does a
remarkably good job as co-writer and director in creating a film that stands
apart from other recent British indie flicks set on a gritty London estate.
Bill Hayward (Charlie Creed-Mills),
or Wild Bill as he was known in his younger days, returns home to an East End
council estate after an 8 year stretch in prison to discover his two young sons
– Jimmy (Sammy Williams) aged 11 and
Dean (Will Poulter) aged 15 – are
living alone after their mother abandoned them for Spain and her new lover.
Dean has been holding things together by working at the Olympic construction
site and isn’t best pleased by his father’s arrival or by the fact Bill
accidently lets slip to his parole officer that the boys are living
unsupervised. Putting his plans to escape London for Scotland on hold, Bill
agrees to stick around long enough to get the social workers off Dean’s back.
For someone who we’re told in his pre-prison days used to enjoy ’10 pints, 2
grams and punch up’ on a night out, fatherhood, even if just for show, isn’t
The first thing you’ll notice about Wild Bill is that the characters and actors
work – they’re completely believable, and so is their story. This is largely to
do with the well-written script, absence of overly stereotypical characters (a
few do creep in) and the actors.
It’s a welcome treat to see Creed-Mills on the big screen in a lead role such a
long time after his break-out performance in Gary Oldman’s Nil By Mouth
– he deserves, in fact, to be a much bigger star than he currently is.
Poulter (Son of Rambow) and Williams
(Attack the Block) are also
brilliant and the three together make a convincing trio.
As the new ‘mild Bill’ attempts to live up to his responsibilities an
instinctual father feeling awakens within him. It helps that Jimmy is a chip of
the old block and has been secretly longing for any kind of parental figure
back in his life. However, independent Dean is much more reluctant and Bill’s
bashful attempts at fatherhood tend to backfire, often amusingly, especially
when he hires him a prostitute for his 16th birthday.
Jeopardy comes in the form of local gangster, Terry (Leo Gregory), who isn’t best pleased Bill is sticking around lest
he should bring unwanted attention to his dealings but also has designs on
Jimmy, who naively falls into his bad books testing Bill’s new-found devotion
as a father.
Wild Bill is a little gem of a film that encompasses themes of rediscovery,
regeneration and fatherhood, set against the backdrop of the developing Olympic
Village and an East London estate, and no, it isn’t cheesy in any way.
Fletcher also avoids gratuitous violence with only one of the final
scenes being largely violent in a scene reminiscent of the Westerns his title
pays homage to. There’s also flashes of other British films such as Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, of
which Fletcher starred, and Jimmy is seen reading a Kick Ass comic, in a nod to his friend Mathew Vaughn’s adaptation of the comic. There’s also cameos from
friends such as Jason Fleming and Jamie Winstone.
The conclusion is both sad and hopeful; we defy you not feel your heart strings
tug slightly. The parting shot sums up Creed-Mills excellent acting
abilities and it’s not one you’d expect to find in a Brit indie flick involving
gangsters and ex-cons.
Laced with humour, sincerity, excellent acting and set in an authentic contemporary
London, Wild Bill is a good example of how an urban British film can get it
right. There’s something for everyone here and well worth shelling out for the