Wild Bill * * * *
Director: Dexter Fletcher.
Screenplay: Dexter Fletcher, Danny King.
Starring: Charlie Creed-Miles, Will Poulter, Sammy Williams, Leo Gregory, Neil Maskell, Andy Serkis, Olivia Williams, Liz White, Jason Flemying, Jamie Winstone, Mark Monero, Sean Pertwee, Marc Warren, Charlotte Spencer, Hardeep Singh Kohli.
It’s pretty much inevitable that throughout each year a British working class drama will make an appearance. What’s surprising about them though, is that whoever steps behind the camera, they seem to find some more mileage and deliver something different from a now tiring formula. Paddy Considine done it last year in “Tyrannosaur” and now (another) actor turned director Dexter Fletcher does it with this.
“Wild” Bill Hayward (Charlie Creed-Miles) has just been released from prison. He heads back to his home where he finds that his partner has abandoned his children in his absence, leaving his 15 year old sons Dean (Will Poulter) and 11 year old Jimmy (Sammy Williams) fending for themselves. When there is a threat of them being taken into care, Bill reluctantly decides to stick around but his youngest has got involved in drug dealing, dragging Bill back into the life he’s been trying to avoid.
I’ll be honest in my judgement of this film beforehand, I was expecting another attempt at ripping off Guy Ritchie and the success of his film’s “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels“, “Snatch” and “RocknRolla”. I’m happy to say that that wasn’t the case here. Sure, this film possesses a similar gritty feel and similar touches of humour but writer/director Fletcher has crafted a very personal film that has an appeal of it’s own. This doesn’t follow the conventions of the British crime flick but delivers a touching and heartfelt family drama. It also pays homage to the classic western in a very understated and clever way; apart from the title itself, the main character of Bill has a tattoo of a Sheriff badge on his chest; he refuses to be run out of town and stares down the local nasties – climaxing in a bar room (saloon) showdown where it becomes apparent why he has received his moniker. All the elements are here and Fletcher does extremely well in managing them with a subtlety, without losing track of the job at hand. Despite the downbeat, and sometimes threatening characters and dysfunctional family element, there is a lightness of touch to be found here and the whole cast deliver memorable shows. Ultimately though, it comes down to the leading man himself – Charlie Creed-Miles. A lot of people may be unaware of this highly underrated actor’s talents but he had previously delivered excellent supporting roles in Gary Oldman’s directorial debut “Nil By Mouth” and Luc Besson’s “The Fifth Element“. Whether or not this film gets him more work remains to be seen but he’s certainly deserving of it and shows impressive range as a decent hearted father with an underlying protective ferocity.
This is a film that manages to juggle several themes and moods and marks a very successful debut from Dexter Fletcher. I only hope that more people pay attention this little gem.