Wild Bill


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Wild Bill
"The steady - but never sluggish - pace allows the characters to live and breathe."

For all that the name Bill is in the title of Dexter Fletcher and co-writer Danny King's film debut, this as much the story of 15-year-old Dean (Will Poulter) and his little brother Jimmy (Sammy Williams) as it is about their ex-con dad Bill (Charlie Creed-Miles). In fact, despite the film's 15 rating - due mainly to some of the hard language and drug taking that is referenced - there is plenty here that 13 and 14-year-olds could relate to and find both funny and thought-provoking.

We meet them as Bill returns home after a stint in jail to find the kids mum has disappeared off to Spain with a new lover leaving them to fend for themselves. Dean has lied about his age and is working on the Olympic building site, while Jimmy is teetering on the top of a slippery slope towards the criminality that his father knows so well. Bill is at a point of his life where the old stuff isn't working but he has no idea how to craft something new. Sick of being stuck in a life of crime, his intention is to ride out of town to avoid getting sucked back into old habits, regardless of his kids' parental needs.

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Dean is the sort who has been forced to become and adult too hard and fast and has long since taken on any father role that Bill used to offer to Jimmy. In fact, he'd be only too happy to kick his father out except for the fact that he needs him around temporarily to appease social services. And so, as the three men - one irresponsible, one bowing under the weight of care taking and one kicking out against any sort of hierarchy - begin to tentatively re-establish their relationships as Bill embarks on the road to redemption.

The title Wild Bill hints at Western influences - and they are certainly here. Fletcher uses Sergio Leone style hugging facial close-ups of his characters and a later scene in the local pub mirrors saloon-style face-offs in films of the genre. What is more impressive, however, is the steady - but never sluggish - pace, which allows the characters to live and breathe. Change here is gradual and believable and - in a spirit it shares with other recent London debut My Brother The Devil - the estate setting is presented as a place where love and laughter as well as poverty and violence can flourish.

This measured pace also affords opportunities for more lyrical/poetic camerawork - such as a heart-warmingly beautiful moment when we see a paper aeroplane dance its way gracefully on the air currents from a high-rise flat window. This is just one example of several moments in the film - including some incredibly high-end steadicam work - that mark George Richmond - who has operated camera on everything from War Horse to Burn After Reading - a cinematographer to look out for.

Fletcher, perhaps unsurprisingly given his long history in front of the camera, also elicits excellent performances from the cast, with Creed-Miles and Poulter relishing the opportunity to stretch themselves. While it is occasionally so sparsely scripted that it feels a little perfunctory and not all of its references come off, this is nevertheless a very good debut that, like its central character, displays tantalising potential for what might come next.

Reviewed on: 23 Feb 2012
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A fresh-out-of-jail ex-con, finds himself landed with taking care of his kids... whether they like it or not.
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Director: Dexter Fletcher

Writer: Tim Cole, Dexter Fletcher, Danny King

Starring: Charlie Creed-Miles, Will Poulter, Liz White, Sammy Williams, Leo Gregory, Andy Serkis

Year: 2011

Runtime: 98 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: UK

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