Ask the average man in the street what he’d expect from the directorial debut of child actor turned Guy Ritchie cohort Dexter Fletcher, and the answer will most likely come close to ‘Wild Bill’. Gritty, grotty council estate setting? Check. Brash Burberry-clad blaggers spouting snappy dialogue and brandishing shooters? Check. Cameo appearances from the League of Ritchie Veterans? Check. But for all its predictability, ‘Wild Bill’ is a promising first film, handling big emotions with restraint and integrity, and never sinking too deeply into a mire of Cockernee cliché. In what could well prove a career-making turn, Charlie Creed-Miles (pictured left) plays ex-gangster Bill, who returns from chokey a changed man looking to reconnect with the family he left behind. But mum’s gone Awol, leaving angry teenager Dean (Will Poulter) to keep an eye on his increasingly wayward younger brother Jimmy (Sammy Williams). And it’s not long before Bill’s old cronies start circling, looking for him to get back into the game.
Much of the film’s strength is down to the cast – Fletcher’s old ‘Press Gang’ colleague Creed-Miles is wonderfully sympathetic in the lead role, though he’s often outshone by ‘Son of Rambow’ star Poulter as the clenched, bitter Dean. There’s solid support from the likes of Neil Maskell and Liz White (in a tiresomely obvious hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold role), and a genuinely unnerving appearance from Andy Serkis as the local Mr Big.Fletcher’s direction is unfussy but wholly competent, investing the bleak landscape with something approaching beauty. He may need to step a little further out of his comfort zone next time around, but ‘Wild Bill’ is a solid start.