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Bullet Boy (15)



Review by: Jack Foley | Rating: Two

THE British gangster movie has becoming something of a tired genre of late.

For every Layer Cake, there are a dozen pale imitations, which makes the prospect of viewing yet another something of a headache.

Bullet Boy, the debut feature from director, Saul Dibb, begins like any other Brit crime flick - it's gritty, packed with desperate characters and full of the usual cliches.

But even though it fulfils most of the criteria for the genre, it does so in a refreshingly sincere manner that makes the journey it takes viewers on well worth the undertaking.

Set in London's East End (especially Hackney's so-called 'murder mile'), the film finds Ricky (Ashley Walters, formerly So Solid Crew's Asher D) emerging from a young offenders' institute determined to go straight.

Instead, he finds himself drawn back into the guns and drugs culture through his unswaying loyalty to best friend, Wisdom (Leon Black), who thrusts him straight into a confrontation with local gang members which threatens to spiral out of control.

The ensuing battle of wits plays out in increasingly vicious fashion while Ricky attempts to rebuild his life with his mother (Claire Perkins), 12-year-old brother (Luke Fraser) and girlfriend.

Dibbs' movie possesses a grim air of inevitability from the outset that makes it feel like countless other urban experiences, yet crucially it feels more authentic than most and isn't content to focus on the violence.

Much of Ricky's story is seen through the eyes of his brother, Curtis, who becomes dangerously drawn to his brother's lifestyle to the extent that it places his own future in doubt.

When he discovers Ricky's gun, especially, it seems only a matter of time before Curtis is drawn into the surrounding violence.

Yet the struggle to keep Curtis away from the crime that surrounds him is the strongest element of the movie, drawing fine performances from young Luke Fraser, as well as his struggling but feisty single-mother, Claire Perkins.

Walters, too, brings a genuine sense of desperation to the role of Ricky, no doubt drawing from his own experience of being in prison, to deliver a portrayal that smacks of honesty.

While Dibbs' use of location nicely offsets the inner city turmoil of London's neglected East End (including its dingy estates and litter-strewn wastegrounds) with frequent shots of the affluent areas which surround it.

His use of violence is more suggested, too, thereby hinting at its psychological effect more than dwelling on the thrill of the kill. A genuine sense of foreboding hangs throughout.

That said, there are times when the film cannot avoid slipping into cliche and struggles to avoid feeling over-familiar, while not appearing too made-for-TV.

But given the sincerity of the performances and the promise of its director, Bullet Boy deserves to trigger a noteworthy response from audiences.

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