|A FilmExposed Film Review
Dir: Saul Dibb, 2003, England, 89 mins
Cast: Ashley Walters, Luke Fraser, Leon Black, Claire Perkins, Sharea-mounira Samuels, Curtis Walker, Louise Delamere
At the centre of this impressive film is Ricky (Walters) just released from jail and potentially straight back into his former life of crime and punishment on the streets of London. Waiting for him to emerge into freedom is devoted 12 year old brother Curtis (Fraser), and mother Beverley (Perkins) who sets up a sumptuous welcome back feast complete with scattered members of the family jiving away.
Ricky chooses not to go home. Instead he goes to see his girlfriend and then back to a club where he's received like a hometown hero. All the time he knows that he's still keeping the very company that put him in windowless accommodation for the last six months. Feelings further exacerbated by a minor altercation he has with loose cannon best friend Wisdom (Black) who begins waving a gun around like it were a parade flag.
As the action peels off through the first few days of his release, Curtis observes his brother's every move, soaking up every aspect of the criminal life. Ricky knows he has to leave town to survive but as circumstances spin around him like a macabre merry go round, Curtis finds his entrance into the adult world blocked by an unavoidably brutal event…
Undoubtedly critics will focus on the performance of Ashley Walters who with dismal serendipity also suffered prison time when as a member of rap collective So Solid Crew was sentenced for carrying a gun. Coincidences will be drawn - art imitating life etc - and Walters will go on to front bigger projects than this, but then look back and see this as the perfect foundation for his burgeoning career.
Filmed on Super 16, mainly in a square mile around Hackney, first time director Saul Dibb's flair for sculpting a beautifully framed piece of celluloid is in constant evidence. Scenes are tightly woven, dialogue resonates with veracity and the conclusion is as powerful as shoving a soapy hand in a live socket.
East London provides the sullen vista to the drama, and if not mistaken there are echoes of City of God in the story of Curtis who inhabits the screen with passive charisma that far outweighs his years. There are numerous story strands, be it the brother's relationship, the floundering family unit, escalating gun crime or even Hackney, like some barren limitless canvas through which Curtis and his best friend play, smoke joints and engage in potentially fatal adult pursuits. Entirely believable to the point where the actual location feels unimportant considering we could be watching scenes from inner cities all over the country.
Struggling for reasons to go and see Bullet Boy then consider that this could be the finest British film to be made in the last twelve months. It's unusual to see gun crime tackled in such a way, for the dialogue to be cliché free and for the combination of a Massive Attack score and a climbing dramatic curve to seek out such a sudden and riveting conclusion.