Wild Bill (15)

Starring: Charlie Creed-Miles, Will Poulter

Anthony Quinn
Friday 23 March 2012 01:00
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On the surface, Dexter Fletcher's directorial debut offers a familiar Brit-crim vehicle: an ex-con trying to go straight, his former toerag associates dragging him back into the mire.

But Wild Bill proves to have something more under the bonnet, and by the end it's been quite a ride. Charlie Creed-Miles is terrific as Bill, back on his old East End stamping ground after eight years in prison. His missus has done a runner, and Dean (Will Poulter), his older son, is blackmailing him into playing dad so that he and his younger brother won't get taken into care.

Feckless, shiftless and pretty hopeless, Bill has no clue about being a dad, or any other kind of responsible human being – down at his local he's known for "10 pints, two grams and a punch-up" – and now that aspiring gangster Terry (Leo Gregory) has him in his sights there seems scant possibility of escape.

Fletcher has assembled a strong cast, including Olivia Williams and Jaime Winstone as social workers, Andy Serkis as a council-estate Capone and Liz White as a tart with a heart, but it's in the vinegary wit of the script (written by Fletcher and Danny King) that the film most impresses: even the small asides and one-liners have a chuckle in them. The picture of east London (Newham), caught between Olympic regeneration and council squalor, feels grittily authentic. Fletcher, 46 but a screen face since youth, has turned his long experience around cameras to good use.

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