Wild Bill * * * *

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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.

Mark Walker

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16 Responses to “Wild Bill * * * *”

  1. When I saw the title of your post, and your rating, I thought you were looking at Walter Hill’s underrated Wild Bill from ’95. Well, I certainly hope they release over on this side of the pond, Mark, given your enthusiasm of the release. Thanks.

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    • Haha. That was exactly the opening line of my original review. “Not to be confused with…” I might still go back and edit it as I think a lot of people will probably think the same thing.

      Great little film though Michael. I really hope it does get released wider.

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  2. I remember seeing a trailer for this a while ago and my first thought was like yours where I thought it was going to try to do what Guy Ritchie’s films did, glad to know that’s not the case. I’m gonna have to find this one and check it out!

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  3. I haven’t even heard of this film, but that’s cool that an actor-turned-director’s debut is getting a high praise!

    Btw, Jack Deth’s post on Jack Lemmon is up now, Part III 🙂

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    • This us a great film Ruth but sadly, I suspect it won’t reach a wide audience. It’ll probably do okay in the UK but not much else. I hope I’m wrong though.

      Yippee! I’ll swing by for a bit of Jack.

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      • It’s a bummer indeed. I mean I still can’t watch The Guard!! It’s only available to purchase on iTunes but not rent, that’s just bollocks!! [I’m trying to sound British, see?] I might have to ask a friend of mine who has regular Netflix [not streaming] and see if it’s available there 😦

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      • That is a bummer man. I suppose we’re probably better off here. We get all kinds of low-key American and world affair as well as access to our own homegrown stuff. Sometimes I complain but forget how much we actually get.

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  4. Consider it to be on my radar, Mark – Good stuff!

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  5. Nice review, Mark! I hadn’t heard about WB before but it definitely sounds interesting, especially the themes and the cast.

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  6. ray brayne Says:

    I can’t really agree on this. SPOILER ALERT. I felt like the bad guys won and Wild Bill is right back where he started. Prison, with his kids still unprotected. This after giving his young son the warning story about the horrors of prison. I wanted him to do the smart thing not the right thing. The right thing here seemed to be the fight at the OK corral pub, entirely unbelievable in my view. He gave a bag of drugs back to the dealers his son worked for and not the police. Wrong example, wrong decision. But then we wouldn’t have much of a Wild Bill movie. Guy Richie movies, no matter how deadly have humorous overtones. Wild Bill is too serious for it’s own sake.

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    • Yeah, I can see your point but it’s fair to say that his character also realises this while sitting in the police car. I think he’s fully aware of the repercussions but he also knows he’s made a difference in his children’s eyes and made enough of a connection for them to be looked out for. Like most ‘hero’s’ that wander into the west, they tend to meet their own fate somehow. It is a lot more serious than Guy Ritchie’s stuff but I liked it all the more for that. It resembled someone like Shane Meadows more but was marketed like a Ritchie flick.

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      • ray brayne Says:

        I’ve come to expect a level of pay-back for the little guy in movies. It’s what Clint Eastwood said about his films, while in real life criminals owned the streets, in cinema Dirty Harry got justice!

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      • Again, well said sir!
        Im of the belief that an ending should be bittersweet. There should be enough to satisfy the character arc but not too much where it becomes like studio interference.

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