Set in London's East End—land of the chavs and scallies in their "council estate" towers—Dexter Fletcher's Wild Bill chips away a bit at those stereotypes perpetuated in part by superficial shoot-em-ups Fletcher has appeared in as an actor, like Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. Those hyperactive movies have their place, but Fletcher and his co-writer Danny King are after something more interesting, if ultimately familiar, in this tale of an ex-con who decides to go straight for the good of his sons.
An eight-year prison sentence has driven a deep wedge between Bill (Charlie Creed-Miles of Nil by Mouth) and his boys: fifteen-year-old Dean (Will Poulter of We're the Millers) and eleven-year-old Jimmy (Sammy Williams). They haven't had it easy without a dad, and since their mother took off nine months ago, they've been forced to lay low from child protective services. Dad's return has the potential to make that situation easier, but Dean is understandably wary and irritable—in fact, downright inhospitable. Jimmy's entirely happy to have a father, but he's also on a path to repeat his mistakes by becoming a drug-dealing intermediary for local lowlife Pill (Iwan Rheon of Misfits and Game of Thrones). Dean has assumed the role of responsible breadwinner, working in construction and looking over Jimmy's shoulder. It's a situation that, at first, empowers Bill to layabout and soak up the admiring attentions of Jimmy.
But the ground soon starts to shift under Bill. A visit from child protective services and inquiries from Jimmy's teachers draw Bill into a more responsible role; so too do encounters with local prostitute Roxy (Liz White) prompt Bill to see an appealing woman with whom he could forge friendship and perhaps more. Meanwhile, Dean is taking his first tentative steps into teen romance with young single-mother Steph (Charlotte Spencer). It takes some effort, but eventually father and sons, along with Roxy and Steph, sit down to what looks an awful lot like a family dinner, coalescing the vision Bill now understands himself to be fighting for. With Dean no longer in his way, that leaves the local toughs, who think they own Bill, from the boss (Andy Serkis) on down. Fletcher directs with a sure hand, and with a concept and influences consciously in mind; fine performances by Creed-Miles, Poulter, and Williams; and approving cameos by old friends like Olivia Williams and Jason Flemyng, Fletcher is able to put his best foot forward in this creditable debut.
Cinedigm does Wild Bill right by preserving, just so, the film's muted color and grotty contrast in a picture that benefits from the overall fine detail of high-def (the source, too, is digital). No complaints, either, about the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, though the intentionally garbly East End accents definitely could have benefitted from optional English subtitles, which this disc sadly lacks. Still, the audio is clean—mostly front and center, but with some effective neighborhood ambience and surround engagement when action kicks in (as in a bar fight sequence).
Bonus features are surprisingly thorough, save for the lack of a director's commentary. Best of set goes to the half-hour "Making Of" (29:47, HD), which includes thorough comments from Fletcher and his cast, as well as set footage and clips. The disc also includes the "Trailer" (1:58, HD), a nifty supercut of the cast and Fletcher's "Favorite Films" (1:39, HD), and a satisfying but disorientingly non-chronological grouping of "Deleted/Extended Scenes" (12:22, HD).
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