Wild Bill (Dexter Fletcher, 2012)

Richard Kattan | 26 March 2012

Remember that sweet, fresh faced kid from The Press Gang?

Well, Dexter Fletcher’s his name - a childhood icon of sorts for most Brits.

Since appearing as Soap, the traffic warden hating, knife obsessed chap in Guy Ritchie’s Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels most might wonder what he’s been up to over the last decade.

Well, turns out he’s been plotting a rather excellent directorial debut called Wild Bill.

This is not, I must add, a remake of the Jeff Bridges film of the same title. It is however, a modern day western of sorts, so they do have that in common. Any and all other comparisons stop there though.

No, Wild Bill is the tale of a once rowdy man (Charlie Creed-Miles) newly released from prison and on a mission to get out of the game that landed him inside.

Unfortunately, fate has decided otherwise and Bill’s plans to flee and start afresh are immediately thwarted when he discovers the mother of his two sons has beaten him to it.

The tables turned and his two heirs apparent, Dean (Will Poulter) and Jimmy (Sammy Williams) fending for themselves, Bill is forced to stick around for a while.

Of course, as is always the way with these con-come-gooders, old forces conspire to make remaining angelic slightly more difficult than anticipated.

So, it’s fair to say that it’s not scaling the dizzy heights of Mount Origin but Wild Bill proves a surprise package in more sense than one.

A neatly assembled, tightly scripted narrative drives it forward at a nice pace and crucially, it has a strong, cutting emotional heart at its centre.

It’s also surprisingly funny.

Boasting a who’s who of Brit actors including, Liz White, Jason Flemying, Jamie Winstone, Andy Serkis and many more; all involved are on top form but sensibly, all the big names are consigned to subsidiary roles while Charlie Creed Miles and Will Poulter dominate centre stage.

Creed Miles is excellent as the conflicted and struggling Bill but it’s Poulter who proves the revelation.

Since Son of Rambow he’s been little seen but Dean provides him with the perfect springboard between child and young adult roles that he so needed and the opportunity does not pass him by.

A young man strong-armed into acting the father figure to his errant younger brother, he’s responsible beyond his years, yet inexperienced in the ways of the world; traits perfectly demonstrated by his work ethic but his mawkish inability to talk to girls.

Stylistically, it’s simple and affective, with Fletcher avoiding his mate Guy Ritchie’s “I’m-a-geezer-and-my-films-are-as-flash-as-I-am” approach.

Instead, he pays tribute to Leoni and demonstrates an assured trust in his story by focusing on his characters’ development and allowing their progression to define proceedings.

A contemporary, western influenced score underpins all the action and a decision to shoot in an abandoned tower block overlooking the Olympic development site in East London is the perfect metaphorical backdrop to further emphasise the themes of hope and change that fuel the film.

All this coupled with a brilliant climactic bar scene, facilitating a solid, realistic ending and you have a film that’s ace-high and an assured and successful directorial debut for good old Dex.

Tip of the hat to you sir - spurs earned.

Rating: 4/5

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