Wild Bill is the debut film by British character actor Dexter Fletcher, who wrote and directed this riff on the genre that helped make him famous. Fletcher aims to put a unique spin on an increasingly worn-out genre, shifting away from the witty fun of a Guy Ritchie movie, or even the dry humor of Matthew Vaughn's Layer Cake toward something more serious and thoughtful. Like its protagonist, the film takes a little while to find its footing, but when it finally settles into a groove, it's surprisingly effective, lifting some genuine moments of physical and emotional brutality out of what could have just as easily been a bloody version of Big Daddy.
In terms of tone, Fletcher is not particularly aggressive, allowing moments to play for what they are without much in the way of music or editing to lead the way. This leads to a particularly dry opening stretch where Bill tries to make sense of his new life; as long as Bill has no sense of direction, the film has no sense of direction. Once the social services people arrive, it becomes clear that Fletcher is interested in an unusal take on maturity and responsibility. Some films would go about this the easy way, with Bill forgetting to pick Jimmy up from school or something similar, but Bill adapts fairly quickly, even while Dean continues to give Bill the cold shoulder. Fletcher subtly emphasizes how bad the boys had it by allowing Bill to turn things around without much effort -- a dirty toilet is Bill's first Everest.
In the meantime, the threat of gangster violence hangs over family progress. Terry's boss, Glen (Andy Serkis) remembers Bill's reckless days, and worries. Bill is content working as a sign-waver, but Jimmy is led into the dealer business by his pal, then ends up in debt to Terry when he dumps a bag full of product in a sewer. Fletcher deftly weaves together these threads, as well as Dean's courtship of a pretty hairdresser, Steph (Charlotte Spencer), and Bill's interest in a local call girl, Roxy (Liz White). Despite Bill's best efforts, there's no escape from the gangster life in his current location, forcing him into a situation he's trying desperately to avoid. Wild Bill is, for the most part, not a violent movie, but when push comes to shove (literally), Fletcher doesn't pull any punches.
Near the beginning, Wild Bill could probably use a trim and some additional energy, but Fletcher eventually reveals his cards. He's got a great star in Creed-Miles, who plays the role without much sentiment, yet imbues his performance with warmth just the same. It's a nice trick, blending the tired, soft-spoken ex-convict and the angry, tooth-and-nail gangster into a single character, but Creed-Miles pulls it off, providing a life raft that helps the film across its rough patches. Fans of the London gangster genre won't find the usual mischief here. Instead, this is a complex picture, blending the emotional rollercoaster of parenthood with the threat of bloody, bruising violence. One expects Bill's knuckles and his heart to look roughly the same.
The Video and AUdio
A reel of fairly inconsequential deleted and extended scenes (12:29, HD) consists mostly of additional lines and moments in scenes that remain in the final cut. The disc wraps up with "Favorite Films" (1:39, HD), a quick-cut montage of the cast and crew naming their picks, and the film's original theatrical trailer.