Bullet Boy

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Movie Review by Mary-Louise Pericleous

Starring: Ashley Walters, Luke Fraser, Leon Black, Clare Perkins
Director: Saul Dibb

A black British film, BULLET BOY is triggered with emotion and loaded with criminals waiting to explode.

Ricky James Gordon (Ashley Walters aka Asher D ‘So Solid Crew’) has just been released from a young offenders institute hoping to turn his life around and go straight. Unfortunately he is dragged into a street confrontation and forced to stand by his best friend Wisdom (Leon Black) in a matter of loyalty and respect. The violent behaviour and aggression escalates between the two gangs of youths and erupts in a series of brutal events. Ricky’s twelve year-old brother Curtis (Luke Fraser) hero-worships Ricky, though he appears to be smart enough to know the difference between right and wrong, his brother’s bad boy image is subconsciously infiltrated into Curtis’ innocence. Their anxious mother (Claire Perkins) attempts to support Ricky and keep him on the straight and narrow whilst at the same time protect her youngest son from his brother’s unconscious glorification of violence.

BULLET BOY is a refreshing film for the British film industry with an echo from America’s BOYZ IN THE HOOD. Easy enough to say the storyline is a plot we have all heard before, it concerns an ex-con who is released from prison and attempts to recover from his downfall. However, Saul Dibb has “tried to tell the story from a human point of view” and to show that “there is more involved than what you read in the newspaper headlines.” Interestingly, the director got the idea for the film when he read a headline in the Hackney Gazette newspaper about “Bullet Boys.”

Saul Dibb is known as a documentary filmmaker. He conducted his research at the Dalston Youth Project centre in Hackney, East London, where he met with a variety of people to discuss gun crime. The prime location for shooting the film was in Hackney, where the crew “tried to film everything within a mile of each other.” The handheld camera takes you through the narrow streets of Hackney, its fields and rivers and allows you into the characters’ family homes, enabling you to witness the story from Ricky’s point of view rather than the secondary tale of what is printed in the paper! Saul Dibb personalises the film by exposing the difficulties Ricky has in attempting to go straight, most notably the peer pressure from his friend and the gap in the relationship he has with his mother. The film explores family life through the eyes of the mother and Curtis and interestingly draws parallels in the relationships of Ricky and his best friend Wisdom and Curtis and his best friend Rio (Rio Tison). This in turn invokes the subliminal message: ‘do not play with guns’. Thus, here we have the streetwise story and the family story entwined into one portraying Ricky in an attempted journey of redemption.

If you wanted to visit Hackney but never had the chance then this film takes you there, by this I do not mean the violence that happens everywhere in and out of London, I mean the language. This film has got the East London lingo spot on and credibility should go the actors who gave astonishing performances. The producers employed actors as well as non-professionals who had similar backgrounds from the characters in the film. Though the actors, at times wooden, the genuine characterisation and dialogue enforces the realistic portrayal of the story and they nevertheless manage to create true to life characters. Saul Dibb’s documentary style shines through. He brakes down the barrier between actor and spectator and replaces it with emotion from person to person where friendship, family and crime combine to form a frightening reality.

BULLET BOY can reach audiences beyond those who admire gangster/crime films and it also involves the family/melodrama genre. (Not the kind of family you find in the GODFATHER but ‘family’ in literal terms.)!

A great film.

4 out of 6 stars