Even though the British film industry is going through a few seismic changes since the abolition of the UK Film Council, it still seems to be business as usual. Wild Bill is yet another addition to the East End gangster saga, and yet it feels like something much more fresh and engaging.
Charlie Creed-Miles plays Bill Hayward, a man just out of prison and desperate to leave his life of crime well and truly in the past. He arrives home and finds that his two young children, Dean (Will Poulter) and Jimmy (Sammy Williams) have been left to fend for themselves by their mother. Dean, desperately trying to avoid him and his brother being taken into custody, insists that his estranged father stay with them in the family’s East London flat.
Wild Bill comes across as more of a Western than a London based gangster movie. Charlie Creed-Miles’ Bill is like a lone wolf, fighting frantically to avoid being sucked into his former criminal world, even though it tries to beckon him back at every turn. And of course there is the inevitable showdown at the film’s conclusion. While the Western style is the driving force of the plot in terms of creating suspense, the real beauty lies in the central father son relationship. There is plenty of substance there, but it is handled with a rather easy going sense of humour that makes it surprisingly heart warming.
The young Will Poulter however is the one who has the breakthrough performance. He’s now in the process of moving up from child roles to adult roles, and if Wild Bill is anything to go by then he could become one of Britain’s next big acting talents. Given that he’s attempting to move from one acting class to something altogether different, playing the young teenager forced into responsibility is perfect for him. Plus he’s armed with menacing eyebrows, which gives him a look that could tee him up to be tomorrow’s big screen hard nut.
It’s a very impressive debut from Dexter Fletcher, the actor making his directorial debut, adding his own voice to the East End gangster sub-genre. While there are a few moments that feel like they have been cut out of every gangster movie since the birth of celluloid, it continuously feels like something we’ve never seen before, and the central character relationships are what makes Fletcher’s debut so engaging. I think we can safely put him in the same actor-turned-director class of Gary Oldman and Paddy Considine, which is certainly good company to be keeping.
Image reproduced from Mirror.co.uk
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