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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
Treads familiar path but is worthy in the face of the UK's film and music scene obsession with making gun culture "cool"
Having served his time for stabbing another teenager, Ricky is released from prison and collected by his little brother and his friend Wisdom. Arriving back in London, Wisdom accidentally damages a car of another young man, but Ricky makes him walk away when things escalate towards a fight. However, when Wisdom realises that the word on the street is that he is a p*ssy, he revisits the young man and shoots his dog dead. Ricky tries to resolve the situation to avoid getting drawn back into the violence that landed him in jail in the first place. Meanwhile, younger brother Curtis watches all these things with admiring eyes.
Basically if you can't work out where the film is headed just from my very basic plot summary then you simply haven't seen enough American ghetto movies and indeed, one of the weaknesses in this film is that it is predictable from not only the moment it starts, but even the moment you are in the lobby looking at the poster. The message is simple but an important one and it is one of the reasons you should try and see it. That it is predictable is surprisingly not a problem and somehow the film is still engaging throughout and I'm not entirely sure why it manages to do it. I think what carries the film is how very natural and down to earth the whole thing is; it feels like real life, the characters feel like real people and for this reason it is engaging because we, the audience, care even if deep inside we know where it is going.
The writing and direction is a big part of making this work. The writing takes the "no way out of the ghetto" cliché and puts it across in such a way that it is not glamorised; the violence starts over nothing and is never anything more than petty and a total waste of time. The small scale of everything within the story is also engaging the violence is not between "gangstas" "rolling" in "Escalades" or "Lexus" but rather teenagers who live in tiny flats with basic furniture and minor drug habits. Although the sentiment may match those of characters in "hood" movies, the real sense of the small is effective and convincing. The direction helps this, with no flashy camera-work and the feeling of London streets and cramped flats. To me this realism was important mainly because, in the UK, we are constantly assailed by a presentation of reality in R'n'B music of bling, expensive cars and women in shorts; meanwhile UK cinema we have an obsession on cool guns and gangsters that comes from "Lock, Stock" and countless copies. If anything the overwhelming of the market with such images and hype make it all the more important to have a film like Bullet Boy do good business to counter it.
Ironically, lead actor Walters is one of those that has had a part in presenting a life that is outside of the reach of nearly all of us (fast cars, guns, violence, drugs and girls) by his part in videos and songs with So Solid Crew. Indeed the group themselves have had their fair share of headlines over shootings and cars and I would like to think that in some way this film was a decision Walters made to try and redress the balance. Regardless of his motives though, Walters is strong; he is natural and convincing as a black teenager in a high rise world of posturing and trivia and he does it without glamorising it or showing a concern for keeping up his So Solid personae or image. He is given good support from Perkins, Fraser and Black among others all of whom add to the feeling of a convincing portrayal of daily reality for many. They don't feel the need to play up to black stereotypes of anger and hardships and they are simply convincingly real people.
Overall this is a predictable film that treads a very familiar path but the natural delivery in all aspects mean it come across as convincing and engaging simply put, we care and we stay with it for that reason. If nothing else, see it to try and counteract the perversion of reality and glamorisation of violence that is pushed in the name of selling records.
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