Wild Bill Review

Wild Bill (2011) Movie Retro Review by John Walsh


Director: Dexter Fletcher
Writers: Danny King, Dexter Fletcher
Stars: Charlie Creed-Miles, Will Poulter, Sammy Williams

Whilst Wild Bill is now seven years old, I think the picture of inequality it paints or highlights in London is every bit as relevant in today’s society. With the recent Grenfell Tower tragedy and other alarming side effects of Tory austerity beginning to manifest themselves, anybody that wants a realistic insight into what life is really like in essentially the inner city slums of 21st century Britain, should look no further. Dexter Fletcher has really done a remarkable job with this one, putting together a fantastic British cast that really bring this story to life.

In short, it’s a tale of redemption, about the struggle of one man and his growing desire to be a father, provide for and protect his two sons. The titular character, Wild Bill (Charlie Creed-Miles), is the protagonist and man mentioned. His oldest son, Dean (Will Poulter) has assumed the role of guardian in his absence with his mother too having disappeared abroad with her boyfriend and it would be fair to say he’s not over enthusiastic about his father entering his life again. He’s self sufficient and shows a maturity way beyond his youthful age of just sixteen.

Meanwhile, the younger son, Jimmy (Sammy Williams), is like a chip off the old block, readily following in his fathers delinquency. A mere child, he’s already taken to bunking off school, smoking spliffs and eventually falls foul of the local, predatory drug dealer, Terry (Leo Gregory) and his goons led by Pill (Iwan Rheon). He soon finds himself being manipulated into being a drug mule, dealing around the estate, even as the blissfully unaware Bill fends off insults with a calm exterior that belies his mad reputation and tries with all his being to become a better person and parent.

In the midst of all this, Dean, who’s working as a builder on an Olympics related project, begins to slowly develop a relationship with both his father and Steph (Charlotte Spencer), a local girl and single mother who’s landed with her often comatose, drunkard of a father, Adam (Marc Warren). With both these budding relationships being emotionally precarious at best. The equilibrium of the latter is sent wayward when Jimmy sneaks into Steph’s house and steals cash in a vain attempt to appease Terry. This turns out to be the turning point as Roxy (Liz White), an often abused person to say the least, let’s slip to Bill about his youngest boys predicament.

What comes next is a tense, nervous confrontation and standoff between both Bill and Terry (with his goons) in a local pub. The fight that takes place is quick, well choreographed and incredibly fun to watch. Bill finally displays the pyscho side that earned him his ‘Wild’ man nickname by beating the crap out of everyone there. This is probably my favourite scene in the entire film, which is saying something because there’s quite a few good ones. It just about beats the ending with Serkis’ Glen (a gangster), struggling to keep his passive aggression in check.

Thematically, Fletcher is clearly trying to tell a story of redemption in Bill’s character whilst almost certainly highlighting the disgraceful living standards of large swathes of inner city London. At that point, it was the austerity obsessed Cameron in charge, don’t forget. There was a few great shots in Wild Bill, but none better encapsulate the sheer ludicrousness of this than the sight of the London stadium and regenerated Olympic park sitting right beside impoverished estates where young children are abused with dealers and survive on toast for their dinners. If they’re lucky.

The cast as a whole delivered a wonderful ensemble performance with an array of British stars turning up for cameos. The most notable being Andy Serkis and Sean Pertwee. Creed-Miles was phenomenal here, his characters transformation from a downtrodden, beaten man with no home into a father figure with new vigour was a pleasure to witness and much of that was down to the performance. Will Poulter was also extremely impressive as Dean. A mature, young man with way too much pressure on his youthful shoulders that also goes through a rollercoaster of emotions upon meeting his father again.

Sammy Williams did a great job as the young Jimmy, whilst Leo Gregory played the role of the predatory, manipulative Terry with convincing ease. I was going to refer to him as a villain, but in reality he always came across as a rather timid chap and never truly convinced as a proper villain. Iwan Rheon of Ramsey Bolton fame was almost unrecognisable in this role, complete with saggy jeans and an embarrassing, wannabe street gangster lingo. Special mention also to Liz White, an actress I’ve always admired especially since her Life on Mars days. She played a vulnerable, trouble lady in Roxy very well.

Overall, I think this is a brilliant film with a plethora of positives and not many negatives. I can’t actually think of any, other than it may be a slightly difficult watch for those outwith the UK. It’s a very British centric film, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give it a blast if you live elsewhere. At just an hour and half long, it’s a well worth a watch.

Rating: 3.5/5

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