Wild Bill, Dexter Fletcher, 96 mins (15)
The Hunger Games, Gary Ross, 146 mins (12A)

Dexter Fletcher does the miraculous and breathes real life into the mouldering corpse of the gangster Britflick – but a much-touted dystopian fantasy is dead on arrival

The success of Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels opened the floodgates to a torrent of inferior gangster-geezer movies. So, news that one of its stars, Dexter Fletcher, had directed and co-written his own East End crime caper, a decade after everyone else, probably didn't pique the interest of many Bafta voters.

The cameos from just about every actor who's ever done a Cockney accent on the big screen, from Jaime Winstone to Jason Flemyng, don't inspire confidence either, and the basic plot is no different from most of those Lock, Stock ... wannabes.

A shell-suited hardman, Charlie Creed-Miles, finishes an eight-year prison term to find that his ex-wife has abandoned their two sons to live alone in a filthy council flat. The 15-year-old, Will Poulter, is doing his best, but he can't stop his 11-year-old brother, Sammy Williams, sliding into delinquency. Creed-Miles has to move in with them to prevent the boys from being taken into care, but the drug dealers from his old manor, Leo Gregory and Andy Serkis, would rather he left town, preferably in a box.

With these credentials, Wild Bill should be just another of the tawdry bloke-sploitation movies that the British film industry keeps foisting on us ... which makes it all the more cheering to report that it's the most affecting, funny, and sure-footed comedy-drama that we're likely to see this year. Yes, it has boozers, brawls and a tart with a heart, but its tone is very much its own: gritty without being gloomy, soft-hearted without being sentimental. And it has a polished script, by Fletcher and Danny King, which packs cherishable sarcasm into every line. What's particularly refreshing is that the film doesn't glamorise its small-time crooks. In the view of Wild Bill, true heroism lies in cleaning the toilet, cooking a shepherd's pie and sticking at a job that pays £3 an hour.

The film's tough-but-tender feel is epitomised by its eponymous hero, who, despite his fearsome reputation, is a flustered, well-meaning soul who quails at the thought of another jail sentence. Creed-Miles is superbly nuanced and sympathetic in the lead role. Poulter, one of the child stars of Son of Rambow, proves to have the wiry intensity to be a grown-up star, too. But Wild Bill isn't a two-man show. Fletcher and King have given each of the many characters their own identity – along with a generous helping of excellent jokes.

The film's socio-political subtext also sets it apart from just about every other post-Guy-Ritchie film: Creed-Miles's high-rise flat may overlook east London's shiny new Olympic Park, but the lives of everyone he knows remain resolutely un-regenerated. Bafta voters – and everyone else – should jump to attention now.

The Hunger Games, like the zillion-selling novel from which it's adapted, has one of those grandiose concepts which you either go with or you don't – and I couldn't go with it. The idea is that in a dystopian future, America will be divided into 13 regions. One of these is a metropolis where the decadent hyper-rich swank around in Marie Antoinette costumes. The other 12 are where the proles toil in poverty. Every year, two teenagers from each of those 12 provinces are picked by lottery to fight to the death in the televised Hunger Games. One of the unlucky teens is Jennifer Lawrence, who plays much the same self-sufficient survivalist as she did in Winter's Bone. Whisked away to the capital, she's coached by a shell-shocked former winner, Woody Harrelson, and interviewed by a toothy, blue-haired game-show host, Stanley Tucci, before being deposited in a forest, where she has to murder her 23 young competitors. It's like a junior I'm a Celebrity – Get Me Out of Here!, but with more machetes.

I don't know whether this noxious premise seems plausible in Suzanne Collins's book, but the film leaves some fundamental questions unanswered, the most fundamental of which is: what's the point of the Games, anyway? It's suggested that they remind the workers not to rise up against their masters, but surely such a ritualised bloodbath would be more likely to foment a revolution than discourage it. (Remember Spartacus?) And as the seat of power is a monumental city capable of devoting vast resources and mind-blowing technology to the Games, I can't see that its oligarchs would have anything to fear from a cowed and starving underclass.

Maybe I'm taking Collins's cartoonish satire too seriously, but that's how The Hunger Games wants to be taken. With its wobbly, indie camerawork, its lack of humour and Lawrence's sullen perma-frown, it presents itself as something deeper and darker than the woolly fantasy it is. It's The Running Man for Justin Bieber fans.

Film choice

Film noir meets figures in a Turkish landscape in Once Upon a Time in Anatolia, a pensive masterpiece with touches of Dostoyevsky and Chekhov from director Nuri Bilge Ceylan. In Darkness is a compelling story of Holocaust survival that sees director Agnieszka Holland returning to her Polish roots.

Arts and Entertainment

game of thrones reviewWarning: spoilers

Arts and Entertainment
The original Star Wars trio of Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill

George Osborne confirms Star Wars 8 will film at Pinewood Studios in time for 4 May


Arts and Entertainment
Haunted looks: Matthew Macfadyen and Timothy Spall star in ‘The Enfield Haunting’

North London meets The Exorcist in eerie suburban drama


Arts and Entertainment

Filming to begin on two new series due to be aired on Dave from next year


Arts and Entertainment
Kit Harington plays MI5 agent Will Holloway in Spooks: The Greater Good

'You can't count on anyone making it out alive'film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before