Bullet Boy

Bullet Boy


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

When John Singleton appeared out of nowhere in 1991 to make Boyz N The Hood, he was hailed as the great black hope. It is unlikely that Saul Dibb will receive quite such an ovation with Bullet Boy, even though both films address a similar social problem, namely gang culture in deprived urban areas. The difference is that Dibb makes no concessions to fashion. There is nothing sexy about his violence.

Using hand cameras, he retains an intimacy that is more informative than language. Much of the dialogue is in patois, street slang from the estates that slices meaning into half formed sentences. Loyalty and trust is the currency of friendship. The gangs are not as formal as in South Central, LA. They hang loose, each wary of the other. No one wears colours or anything like that. Some have guns.

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Ricky (Ashley Walters) comes out of prison on parole. If he doesn't behave, he goes straight back. He wants to be independent and strong, but it's not made easy. When an acquaintance offers action as a dealer, he turns it down flat. He wants to start over, with his girlfriend, but being in the neighbourhood blurs the edges. He drifts into something that antagonises a rival group. The fuse is lit.

This is not Ricky's story any more than an indictment into what the tabloid press call "the gun culture." When Sal Mineo picks up a pistol in Rebel Without A Cause, you can write his epitaph right there. It is not as simple in Bullet Boy, which is why Dibb's film flirts with stereotypes, yet never goes all the way.

There are three lives on the line - Ricky, his little brother Curtis (Luke Fraser) and his mother Bev (Claire Perkins). Ricky still lives at home and is a role model to Curtis. Bev is protective of her youngest and fearful for her first born. As a single mother, she feels the weight of responsibility falling away into a dark place.

The spiral of violence may feel familiar, but this is not a formulaic film. Its originality lies in the truthful nature of its telling and the honesty of its performances. Fraser, although the youngest, has a disproportionate affect on the audience's emotional response. Curtis, like us, must learn the language of survival.

Reviewed on: 09 Apr 2005
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A boy's efforts to go straight are tested by his gang loyalties.
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Director: Saul Dibb

Writer: Saul Dibb, Catherine Johnson

Starring: Ashley Walters, Luke Fraser, Claire Perkins, Leon Black

Year: 2004

Runtime: 89 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: UK


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