Dexter Fletcher’s directorial debut comes to Blu-Ray with British comedy-drama Wild Bill.
The film review portion of this is a reprint of my look at the film during the London Film Festival in October 2011. Further below, I take a look at the AV and extras of the disc.
Dexter Fletcher is a man whose face you may know even if you don’t remember the name. After appearing in popular children’s show Press Gang decades ago, he’s popped up in all sorts of stuff and even took over as host of the AMAZING 90′s Channel 4 programme GamesMaster back in the day. After a fair old whack at the acting game though, he’s decided to shake things up a bit by co-writing and directing Wild Bill – a film which had a fair bit of heat on it going into the festival but certainly wasn’t one that people have been screaming about by any means.
Bill (Charlie Creed-Miles) has just been let out of prison and immediately heads to his ex-girlfriend’s flat only to find her gone and his sons Dean (Will Poulter) and Jimmy (Sammy Williams) still living there without care. After Dean steals some of Bill’s drugs, Bill agrees to stay around until Social Services stop sniffing around in exchange for getting the drugs back. Bill soon starts caring for his sons though and tries to start a new life in the area, something old acquaintance and now kingpin of the area Terry (Leo Gregory) is not too happy about at all.
Read that plot description again. I bet you’re thinking “oh dear”. When the film started, I was thinking this also but this didn’t stay with me for long as the film took its wholly charming hold on me and did not let go until the end credits began. Instead of coming across as the Lock Stock aping ‘geezers and guns’ type of thing it easily could have been, Dexter Fletcher and co-writer Danny King have created brilliant characters and a constantly shifting tone which works throughout and elevates this above pretty much any other British film I can think of this year.
Bill himself is a marvellous creation. We are told throughout that he used to be a legend and a hell of a presence and while he still has the attitude here, he seems more mellow, someone who wants to keep himself to himself. At the start of the film, he just wants to make a fresh start somewhere else and in the broadest of ways, this aim doesn’t actually change all that much in the film but in the specific context it’s a world away. Charlie Creed-Miles is somewhat likable from the off and only gets more so – with a basic judgement of right and wrong in terms of his children and what he thinks they need in their lives. This is also helped out by fantastic performances from Will Poulter and Sammy Williams who convince as sons of this man, brothers and also two distinct personalities at very different stages in their young lives, Poulter’s experiencing the pangs of first love, Williams’ trying to figure out what path in life he’s going to go down.
The film also succeeds in feeling like a crowd pleaser without ever actually asking to be. While this is a defiantly London based film which worked well with the LFF audience, I felt just as at home laughing at the situations which come up and the little quirks each character had, while also feeling highly uncomfortable during the more dramatic moments, Fletcher letting the more serious stuff play out in a calm manner which really lets the events sink in. When it’s funny it’s funny, when it’s dramatic it’s dramatic and that’s all you can ask for surely?
Wild Bill is a real treat and is certainly my favourite film of this year’s LFF and I hope all involved are thoroughly proud of their efforts. It is a film which rises above and transcends the rather meagre ambitions the initial plot seems to have and for me this makes Dexter Fletcher a very exciting presence to keep an eye on when he gets behind the camera again hopefully sooner rather than later.
Onto the disc itself, brought to us by Universal and The Works, starting with a 2.35:1 1080p transfer which accurately represents the film’s digitally shot nature with a clear and crisp image which somewhat lacks fine image detail you can get in the very best transfers from film. A heavy sense of digitally grading the image also puts this into further clarity with a picture which never feels all that natural despite doing a perfectly decent job of replicating a big screen experience. Faring better is a solid DTS-HD 5.1 soundtrack which shows off a decent use of the surround channels throughout along with a pleasantly chunky bass during the many pieces of music used throughout. Ambient noises are replicated well through the rear channels, dialogue is reproduced sharply and in all, the audio is a success.
Moving onto the extras and despite the film’s quick and unwarranted death at the Box Office, we get a nice half hour making of which goes into the casting of the film, an obvious affection for Dexter Fletcher from all involved and a look at the less glamorous, and cold, side of British filmmaking the cast and crew find themselves in at times. We also get a few deleted and extended scenes which add moments of humour and a few character beats though none feel like they would have been particularly missed from the final cut. Finishing off is a fun little piece as members of the production rattle off their favourite films and then the UK trailer for the theatrical release. Nothing mind-blowing but an OK enough selection of extras.
A fantastic film, acceptable AV and extras with enough effort thrown at them make for an easy recommend for me.