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Wild Bill - Review

Wild Bill

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

THE directorial debut from Dexter Fletcher may trade on the familiar without straying too far from the actor’s comfort zone but it’s an accomplished crowdpleaser that unearths a potential new filmmaking talent.

At its heart, Wild Bill is a contemporary Western set amid the council estates of east London with the developing Olympics village as a backdrop. It contains a certain gangster chic associated with the films of Guy Ritchie (which helped bring Fletcher to prominence) as well as several familiar genre faces. But it arguably has a lot more heart too.

The film follows ‘Wild’ Bill (Charlie Creed-Miles) as he gets out of prison and finds himself having to look after two sons in the form of angry teenager Dean (Will Poulter) and his younger brother Jimmy (Sammy Williams).

At first reluctant to step up to his paternal responsibilities, Bill strikes a deal that prevents them from going into care and slowly comes to like the potential it offers for a new life. But his past is never far behind and as former colleagues try to entice him back, it’s not long before he’s forced to look out for his family in other ways.

Fletcher’s film may tick a lot of the boxes you’d expect but it does so in considerable style while also subverting some expectations along the way.

Story-wise, Fletcher is more interested in the family dynamic and the father-son bonding than he is the gangster element, slow-building the tension towards an inevitable but emotionally charged climactic showdown.

It means you care about what happens once Bill is faced with his day of reckoning.

Cast-wise, too, Fletcher has some fun casting the likes of Jason Flemyng and Jaime Winstone against type, while giving Andy Serkis room to create another brief but memorable villain.

Best of all, though, he allows the lesser known or emerging likes of Creed-Miles, Poulter and Williams to shine at the centre of the story. Creed-Miles, in particular, is on terrific form as Bill and his transformation from uncaring no-hoper to devoted dad is utterly convincing.

But Poulter (of Son of Rambow fame) is equally great as his angry, determined, independent eldest son who has adjustments of his own to make.

And Williams lays down his own marker for the future as Jimmy, the unwitting catalyst for the film’s final act. Watch out, too, for Liz White, as tart with a heart Roxie, who brings charm and wit to what could have been a fairly stereotypical role… something that Fletcher consistently strives to avoid turning the majority of his characters into.

Put together, therefore, Wild Bill is something of a surprise package – a consistent crowdpleaser that’s genuinely worth investing time in. The climax is a belter that rewards both the good work put in by the cast as well as the watching audience (who may even shed the odd tear).

It should be interesting to see where Fletcher goes from here as a filmmaker.

Certificate: 15
Running time: 98mins
UK Release Date: March 23, 2012