There are some British films which make you wonder why they got the green light instead of the bullet. Not Wild Bill.
Dexter Fletcher’s first film as a director has a confident swagger, looks terrific and is packed with cameos from Mr Press Gang’s actor mates such as Jason Flemyng, Olivia Williams, Jaime Winstone and Sean Pertwee.
In particular, Charlie Creed-Miles (below) is excellent as Bill, fresh out of prison and trying to reconcile with his two sons. Eleven-year-old Jimmy (Sammy Williams) still has time for him, but his eldest Dean (Son Of Rambow’s Will Poulter) is unforgiving since their mother also abandoned them some years ago to forge a new life in Spain.
The fact his boys have been left home alone forces Bill to stick around for a social work report. However, since he left his mark on the estate, a hierarchy of drug dealers (Iwan Rheon, Leo Gregory and Andy Serkis, apparently on loan from a Guy Ritchie movie) are going to make things difficult for him.
A tendency to cut corners in plotting means that no one will be surprised by the way this story of distant dads and aggressive sons pans out. And the women are pretty baldly typecast here as happy or unhappy slatterns, traits that comes off as roughly offensive. Fletcher clearly relishes cinematic flourishes but applies them in broad, superficial strokes.
It’s a film with a lot of misdirected energy; happy to let familiar plot pills fizz away, but unwilling to really shake things up properly. However if Fletcher can wean himself off lazy dramatic tropes in future, he could well become a film-maker worth watching.
Wild Bill (12A)
Director: Dexter Fletcher
Running time: 98 minutes
• On general release from Friday