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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
Saul Dibb's debut feature stars So Solid's Ashley 'Asher D' Walters as Ricky, a parolee returning to Hackney's infamous murder mile. He is hoping to remain on the straight and narrow but this proves difficult as he's re-encompassed by the same violent climate he left and the need to maintain honour while preserving his reputation is the code to live by.
There is little to fault this British Movie. Shot on 16mm and on a tight budget of ca.48k, what we are given is a fly-on-the-wall view of life on the streets and the futility of Britain's gun culture. This didn't have to be shot in Hackney, but anywhere would have suited the scenario of disadvantaged youths trying to keep their heads above water in the increasingly gangsterish streets of Britain.
Dibb, the director, is very careful not to preach to us. The closet similarities and comparisons made will point an out-dated and clichéd finger at John Singleton's 'Boyz in da Hood' and Spike Lee's 'Do The Right Thing'. Although these two films crystallised (inner) racial feuding and violence in America, Dibb keeps his message a little closer to his chest as the audience decide who's the true hero, villain or victim - if any. This film plays as a theatrically scripted tragedy, which is sensed from the opening where the young Curtis (Luke Fraser) goes to meet his paroled brother.
It is hard to pinpoint the film's genre and exactly what the plot is. Largely unknown actors, a purpose-built raggedy script (with plenty of improv) revolving on just-happen-to-be circumstances leads to a sense of a horrific reality. Here, kids try to become men too young, and violence is the sole key to respect even if it is borne from a childish dispute like a minor traffic incident as in the film.
It works and it works very well. All character development is sidelined for a streamed view of street life. Clare Perkins plays the mother who has no control over her boys despite her strenuous efforts, the reformed Preacher (Curtis Walker) and Wisdom (Leon Black) all have their own back story, which we are told in a sentence, focusing our attentions on the Brothers. Each character represents a social template in one of life's cycles, Ricky and Wisdom are the present and his younger brother could easily be the future while the rest of the cast represent those inadvertently embroiled in street politics and gun ethics.
Massive Attack's Robert Del Naja delivers a haunting theme to end the movie, as the filmmakers ask no questions but leave them in sight. Dibb, who is traditionally a documentary maker is all too aware of how to enter the psyche of gritty subject matter with previous works on street life and shop lifting he wants us to see all the angles, the choices these people make and their consequences. It is then up to us to draw our own conclusions.
Ricky wants to be the ideal brother for Curtis but the street will not let him. He wants to knock some sense into his over zealous friend Wisdom but loyalty won't let him. Curtis is a lovable character because he has the innocence of youth, which his environment is too eager to snatch as (peer) pressures encroach on him and his brother's good intentions are contrasted by the actuality of his actions. Curtis is the natural choice to become a Bullet Boy, like others around him and the responsibility is left to the one character that should traditionally have none.
This is a powerful fete in film-making and serves topic matter that is relevant and garnished with gritty realism that you cannot help but feel for all those involved.
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