Gun culture goes under the microscope in Bullet Boy, Saul Dibb's powerful and moving directorial debut. Ashley Walters (aka So Solid Crew's Asher D) and newcomer Luke Fraser deliver compelling performances in this low-budget British drama, about a freshly-released jailbird who struggles to go straight on the mean streets of Hackney. On paper the clichés stack up like one of the film's high rise flats; on celluloid the movie overcomes its hackneyed plotline to deliver an all-too-believable message about the impact of firearms on a family.
Dibb's documentary past shines through here, as he goes beyond sensationalist headlines to examine the chilling domestic repercussions of packing a gun. Eighteen-year-old Ricky (Walters) doesn't have to go looking for trouble; it knows where to find him. On his way home from a young offender's institute with hotheaded pal Wisdom (Leon Black), his life collides - literally - with two rival kids from the neighbourhood (Clark Lawson, Jadiel Vitalis). Following an unresolved stand-off, the situation spirals completely out of control - in ways that will impact upon pet dogs and the whole of Ricky's family, particularly younger brother Curtis (Fraser).
"CLOSER IN SPIRIT TO LA HAINE AND KES"
The black characters and urban setting invite lazy comparisons to John Singleton's 1991 drama Boyz N The Hood. Bullet Boy, however, is closer in spirit to hard-hitting French pic La Haine (1995) and Ken Loach's depiction of lost innocence, Kes (1969). Sharing the compassion of Loach's best movies, Dibb's film becomes less about Ricky's desperate attempts to avoid his fate, and more about the effect the lethal weapon has on his impressionable young sibling.
A sensitive look at an incendiary subject, Bullet Boy really hits the mark.