out of Five
Running time: 96
Hugely enjoyable, emotionally engaging and frequently laugh-out-loud funny, this is an impressive directorial debut from Dexter Fletcher, thanks to a superb script, heartfelt characters, a great soundtrack and terrific performances from a fine ensemble cast.
What's it all about?
Co-written and directed by Dexter Fletcher, Wild Bill stars Charlie Creed-Miles as 'Wild Bill' Hayward, an ex-con who gets out of jail after an eight year stretch to discover that his two young sons – 15-year-old Dean (Will Poulter) and 11-year-old Jimmy (Sammy Williams) – have been abandoned by their mother and left to fend for themselves. Initially, Bill only wants to leave town, while Dean makes it clear that he isn't wanted or needed, but his arrival has attracted the attention of social services (Jaime Winstone and Jason Flemyng), so Bill agrees to stick around until the authorities are satisfied.
Meanwhile, Bill's ex-cohorts (including Leo Gregory as Terry and Kill List's Neil Maskell as Dicky) are both wary of his former reputation and anxious to draw him back into a life of crime. Knowing that the slightest violation will see him back in jail, Bill only wants to go straight, but when his youngest son gravitates towards Terry's gang, Bill knows he has to take action.
Charlie Creed-Miles delivers a terrific performance as Bill and is utterly convincing as a man gradually rediscovering his place in the world; his interactions with all the other characters are a joy to watch and he generates touching chemistry with both Sammy Williams and Liz White (as kind-hearted prostitute Roxy). Will Poulter is equally good as Dean and there's superb support from Gregory, Maskell and Charlotte Spencer as Dean's would-be girlfriend Steph.
Essentially, this is a council estate western fused with an emotionally engaging father-son story, and the brilliantly written script does an excellent job of dove-tailing those two elements in a way that feels natural and organic. Similarly, despite the gritty subject matter there's a lot of humour in the film and the sharply written dialogue is packed with funny lines.
Fletcher's direction is assured throughout, making great use of close-ups and displaying a confident style that pays off brilliantly; he also orchestrates several wonderful scenes, most notably a delightful sequence involving a paper aeroplane. Similarly, George Richmond's cinematography makes great use of the authentic council estate locations and there's a fantastic soundtrack to boot.
Impressively directed and superbly written, Wild Bill is a hugely entertaining directorial debut from Dexter Fletcher that's by turns gripping, heart-warming and laugh-out-loud funny. Highly recommended.