Wild Bill is that most terrible of critical foes: an unremarkably good film. It is the sort of movie you watch with friends, when the desire for alcohol is high in direct contrast to the desire for complex thematic discussions. It’s a film with nothing to say but “these people are bloody good at their jobs aren’t they?” To which I can only respond: “Yes. Yes they are. Yay!”
The film begins with the titular Wild Bill (Charlie Creed-Miles) being released from prison after 8 years inside. He returns to his old East End haunt planning to be in and out sharpish, his aim being to move up north to work on the oil rigs. However a spanner appears in his works in the shape of his kids. Dean (Will Poulter) and Jimmy (Sammy Williams) are currently fending for themselves, having been abandoned by their mother. When Bill unwittingly lets his parole officer know about this, he is coerced into remaining in London to look after his estranged children, lest they be taken into care.
What then follows lives up to all expectations about films that begin with mutually distant children and parents. It also lives up to all expectations of the British gangster drama: plenty of crime and brutality, but layered over with enough humour to make it palatable. There’s mouthy kids, a ridiculous Chav (Iwan Rheon), and Creed-Miles’ walk is so stereotypically Cockney that it all but offers one a banana. The script is witty and the actors deliver it well. It’s also nicely economical: though bad stuff happens, the film only dwells on it long enough to make us aware of the grime, before shooting off back to the story. In short, this is a film that wants to be fun, more than it does anything else.
This is not to say it isn’t occasionally emotional though. Dexter Fletcher has a pretty intimate directorial style, and makes heavy use of close ups to show us what his actors can do. As it turns out, that’s quite a bit. Though Williams might be a bit flat on account of his youth, Poulter on the other hand is a revelation, nothing less than totally believable in his grief and anger. He even somewhat upstages Creed-Miles, who doesn’t really show what he’s made of till the final scenes, though those are the definition of climactic. As for the villains, Leo Gregory makes an entertainingly malicious gang boss and Andy Serkis goes a mite crazy in his cameo role as drug-provider Glen.
The icing on this humour/character cake is the action and the score. Fletcher knows how to capture tension, and put a fight together. The end result has that low-key brutality that made Haywire so much fun. Meanwhile Christian Henson’s score is a constant, toe-tapping delight.
And that’s that. There really is not that much else to say: Wild Bill is a film of surface thrills. It has action, it has laughs, it has a very fit girl (Charlotte Spencer) and Creed-Miles has the abs of a underwear model. It even chucks in a bit of emotion. But on the whole, this is not a film for a piercing critical analysis: it is a film to be watched with a curry, a cider and a few mates who aren’t poncy art snobs like myself. In short: it’s a film to watch, rather than write about.
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