out of Five
Running time: 91
Impressive debut from writer-director Saul Dibb, featuring strong performances from Walters and Fraser.
Bullet Boy is the debut feature by British writer-director Saul Dibb. Though the story itself is a familiar one, the film distinguishes itself through confident direction and strong performances from its two leads.
Determined To Go Straight But Having Trouble
Set in East London, the film stars Ashley Walters (also known as So Solid Crew’s Asher D) as Ricky, a young black man fresh out of a young offenders institute. Though determined to go straight, Ricky doesn’t even make it home before he’s in trouble again, thanks to his best friend Wisdom (Leon Black) and a confrontation with a local rude boy that leads to a series of escalating incidents.
Meanwhile, Ricky’s 12 year old brother Curtis (Luke Fraser) hero-worships his older brother, while determined not to follow in his footsteps. However, after a particularly unwise trawl through his brother’s possessions, he soon finds himself in trouble of his own.
For some reason it’s always a surprise when a pop star turns out to have acting talent, perhaps because our expectations have been set so low by the likes of Mick Jagger and Sting. At any rate, Ashley Walters is superb as Ricky – you can sense him being literally torn apart between his desire for a better life and his loyalty to his friend.
Luke Fraser is equally good as Curtis and both characters are so likeable that you spend the second half of the film holding your breath because you’re scared something bad will happen to them.
Dibbs also gets strong performances from his supporting cast, in particular Leon Black, who takes a stereotypical character (think Joe Pesci in Goodfellas) and makes it his own. There’s also strong support from Claire Perkins (as the boys’ mother) as well as the kid playing Curtis’s smartarse best friend, a child in dire need of a slap.
Authentically London In Outlook
Shot in and around Hackney, the film makes good use of its locations. In addition, Dibb and co-writer Catherine Johnson have a good ear for dialogue and their well written script gives Bullet Boy an authentic London feel. It also has a decent soundtrack, which is thankfully light on So Solid Crew numbers.
Dibb’s direction is excellent and there are some impressive scenes. One sequence in particular is incredibly tense and demonstrates that there is nothing so scary as the sight of a schoolkid showing off with a gun in his hand.
In short, Bullet Boy is a well told, engaging drama that transcends its familiar material thanks to impressive performances and assured direction that marks Dibb out as a talent to watch. Recommended.