Review by: Jack Foley | Rating:
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,
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