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In one of East London's most volatile neighborhoods, pride, rivalry and revenge are the only codes on the street. Touted as a British Boyz in the Hood, Bullet Boy is a gripping and authentic drama that takes an unflinching look at two troubled, street-smart boys. Fresh out of jail, 18-year-old Ricky (Ashley Walters, Get Rich or Die Tryin') and his 12-year-old brother, Curtis, struggle to walk the straight and narrow when a minor street clash escalates into an all-out neighborhood war. For Ricky and Curtis, friendships, family and loyalty will be tested to the extreme in a world where guns are a fact of everyday life and boys try to be men before they're even teenagers. Music by Massive Attack. Written by
Depressing; unoriginal; waste. Should really have been better...
"Gritty," "real," "uncompromising," "hard-hitting," just some of the buzzwords that I've heard and read in the description of what, ultimately, turns out to be, or at least attempts to be, social commentary on street culture in 21st century London.
Whilst the film very much lives up to the aforementioned words (something British titles are always generally very apt in), I can't help but feel like I was cheated out of an actual story and instead presented with an 80 minute advertisement on how bad the pitfalls of the gun. To me, the entire movie was a bit of a waste; devoid of wit, humour and or any form of actual derision, we get taken through a series of one depression invoking scene to another. The melon coli that consumes and drives the film forward only helps to underwhelm one further in what, we already know, is already going to be a pretty morbid outing. A sense, or feeling of hope wouldn't have went a miss either, but with the premise being so linear and uncompromising, these are areas that were either sacrificed or merely completely forsaken, which ultimately proves to be a bit of a shame.
The importance of the weapon in question becomes so overwhelming, that I feel it, this inanimate object, has much more dimensions than any one of the films main protagonists: It goes from a reminder of an ex con's past, to a secret that must be kept hush, to a thing of power, intimidation and hegemonic dominance, to a child's play thing and finally to a hot potato, all the while destroying each and every thing in it's path, dividing families, ending relationships and every other inevitable cliché that comes with the arming of the gun; unoriginality personified.
Whist I wasn't particularly taken with the premise, or in fact what the film was supposed to be alluding to, I did find solace in the performances of the two primary characters.
Ashley Walters, of "So Solid Crew" Fame, gives a noteworthy performance as Ricky, just released from prison and seemingly trying to get his life on the straight and narrow. Whilst totally believable in the role I feel the lack f direction the character was given and the writing put in front of Walters was bitterly disappointing. As the main protagonist I wanted, so dearly, to get behind his character but time after time he drew nothing but scorn from me as he seems far too content to lay stagnant in his own mediocrity and overtly abrasive whenever challenged. Whilst I see this as very much the teenage stereotype it didn't really help to teach me anything I wasn't already aware of, nor did it help to bring anything new to the plate. Plus, the end scene didn't have quite the impact I think the director was attempting to build toward as it was nothing short of inevitable. Rather than do the 180 you hope to see from this type of character we don't even see him undertake a 360 and instead he remains very much still and whilst he does air his objections to the gun at points, he seemingly learns little and develops in a manner that is very frustrating.
Luke Frazer, playing Walters' younger brother, Curtis, is equally compelling as the starry eyed, awe-stricken admirer of Walters. Eager to copy his brother at every turn Frazer was both believable and convincing in the way he went about the task. Thanks to the way the story developed and the characters panned out, it was his journey that, ultimately, became the most interesting of the pair, as this impressionable youngster becomes so emblazed in admiration that tragedy almost befalls the boy within the film. It is a testament to Frazer (and the direction of that whole 10-20 minute period) that at a point when my frustration was really starting to take hold, he pulled me back in and, at once, had me round the proverbial gonads, yearning for things to work out for the kid. Understated, but very, very thought evoking.
All in all, a film that works because of the performances from the above two parties, as nothing else was particularly stand-out; familiar premise, familiar characters, familiar feel and all-too familiar sense of being preached to rather than being educated.
I'd recommend giving it a look and appreciating the performances - and, to it's credit, I can see a lot of people clinging on to the fact that the movie is "real," "cool" and or "exactly like me and my mates" - but not a film I'll be in a hurry to see again anytime soon and I can't help but feel it was an opportunity wasted.
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