Wild Bill, the impressive directorial debut from Dexter Fletcher, better known for his work as an actor in such films as Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998) and Layer Cake (2004), here moves the wild western to the east end of London.
The notorious Bill Hayward (Charlie Creed-Miles) is released from prison after 8 years and returns to his home in a London estate where he attempts to reconnect with his estranged sons, 15 year old Dean (a fantastic performance from young actor Will Poulter- a rising star indeed, recently appearing in Narnia, Son of Rambo and The Fades) and Jimmy (Sammy Williams, who starred in a similarly placed film, Attack the Block).
Bill tries to avoid slipping into his old shoes and earn money with honest work, but prison afterlife is difficult. As are his new responsibilities in parenting; 11 year old Jimmy is lured into dealing pills for some mean gangster geezers and when he doesn’t come up with the money, there is hell to pay and Bill must pick up the pieces and learn how to be a father.
Although elements of the western were there; Bill’s sheriff tattoo, his cowboy swagger through the swing doors of a pub, the ‘draw’ that started the final battle, I was glad that the film didn’t adopt any conventions of the genre. Instead I would compare it to Attack the Block or maybe an episode of Eastenders – but only because I can’t think of anything nearer to the mark right now.
Although I heard another journalist in the audience complain that the film had some part in glamourising ghetto culture, I found the film genuinely heartfelt and even moving at times. We are shown kids that grow up too fast, parents who struggle to control them, and the difficulties in breaking this cycle. Dexter Fletcher’s final dedication to his father, who died earlier this year, showed how much the project meant to him.
My favourite scene was when we watch Bill and Jimmy make paper aeroplanes out of bills and fly them out the window of the high story flat. Like white birds, they sail over roofs and trees, and then land.
Finally, some noteworthy performances included: Iwan Rheon (Misfits, Dexter Fletcher also had a part in the show) Olivia Williams (Dollhouse).