film review: Wild Bill (2012)

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Wild Bill is the directorial debut of actor Dexter Fletcher, you may know him from the likes of Band of Brothers. I didn’t but you might.

Bill Hayward (Charlie Creed-Miles) is the titular Wild Bill, a former drug dealer and hard man. After 8 years in jail, he returns home to discover his wife has abandoned his 11 year old and 15 year old son and they’re fending for themselves in a dirty flat in London’s East End. His first instinct is to bolt but when Social Services turns up and looks to take the boys into care his eldest threatens Bill into sticking around.

I don’t know what I was expecting with this. The poster, I think, suggests a funnier, brasher, louder film about well… a wild man. Yes, I think it’s fair to say I expected another gritty East End gangster film. It’s not that at all, it’s an altogether more measured affair… set in East End gangster territory.

The setting is perhaps to its downfall. It’s not a story that required the gangster element. At it’s heart Wild Bill is a film about a father and a son, what it means to be a son, what it means to be a father and what it means to be a family. When the film is centered on that idea it’s excellent. The family of Creed-Miles, Will Poulter and Sammy Williams put in some great work, as to some of the supporting cast around them. They managed to capture the tension, anger, resentment and ultimately compromise that needs to inhabit the family dynamic. Liz White also does well as the… let’s call her a “moll“… who lends a woman’s touch around the home, though more could have been done with her.

Unfortunately where the film falls down is when the underbelly of the East End step in. The situations and characters are so clich├ęd it almost pulls apart the good work that’s been done in making this NOT just another British crime drama. There’s a big name in there with Andy Serkis and indeed, he seems to be the only one who’s bothered to put in some effort as the others languish lazily in their undoubtedly familiar character tropes. I’m surprised he tried given then he’s only in it for about 4 minutes, I supposed it’s a testament to his professionalism. To be fair to the other actors, they didn’t write the script so it’s hardly their fault how their “characters” ended up.

As a debut feature, one has to give Dexter Fletcher credit. It’s an all around solid affair and I hope that his dipping into some of the more hackneyed characters of the genre had more to do with a lack of confidence as opposed to a lack of imagination. I’ll certainly be keeping an eye on his next move.

All in all, Wild Bill is a decent diversion. It doesn’t quite manage to step outside the stereotypes of an East End crime drama but there’s enough different about it that it’s worth a watch if you see it on TV or DVD.


Click here for Wild Bill clips and trailers.

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