Wild Bill

Wild Bill
Directed by Dexter Fletcher, also directed Sunshine on Leith.
Stars Charly Creed-Miles, who also appeared as the detective in Harry Brown. The film also features other actors who have appeared in similar films, Jaime Winston, who appeared in Kidulthood and Made in Dagenham, Marc Warren, who apart from TV’s Hustle also appeared in Wanted and Green Street Hooligans, Leo Gregory, who was in Green Street, and Andy Serkis, who appeared in Brighton Rock.

Summary, representation, and Living with Crime issues.

Wild Bill shows the the journey of Bill Hawyard from leaving prison after serving an 8 year stretch, to going back to prison, but he is going back knowing that he has re-gained his self respect, and asserted himself as a father to the boys, and possibly gained a partner in Roxy. His ‘hero’s journey’ started off with the challenge of leaving prison and going straight. He faces the challenges and temptations of re-gaining the trust of his family and avoiding a return to his criminal ways. With Roxy as his helper , he faces the ‘abyss’ – the confrontation with the gang and this helps the transformation. His ‘atonement’ is in going back to prison in the knowledge that he will return as a responsible member of society.
In the context of ‘Living with Crime’ the film focuses not just on the criminals themselves, but on those affected by the crime, in this case Bill’s immediate family who have been abandoned by both parents and left to fend for themselves. The younger boy, Jimmy, is already represented as someone for who the descent into repeating the criminal path of his father is inevitable, engaging in truancy, vandalism, theft, and drug running. The wider community is seen as being implicated in their dependence on drugs supplied by the ‘franchise’ of Terry and his gang, who themselves are subject to the rule of the local ‘Godfather’ – Glen.
The ‘authorities’, represented by the Probation Officer, Social Workers, Police and Child Protection workers are shown as well meaning but essentially powerless in turning round the lives of the main characters, and easily duped by them.
The location of the film, adjacent to the Olympic site in Stratford with all its investment, is shown as having little effect on the local community.
Class is represented through the dependence on benefits, municipal housing, illegal means for gaining money, and illegal employment practices. The dwellings are shown as messy and claustrophobic.
There is a very strong ‘macho’ culture represented by all the male characters in the film, violence and bullying are seen as the answer to solving all problems. Even the male Child Services Officer and the policeman are seen to use aggressive, bullying behaviour to get their points across. The principal female characters are Roxy, Steph, the Probation Officer and the Social Worker. Roxy is seen as an oppressed victim of circumstances, being used as a ‘sex object’ by the gang who ‘pimp’ her out to clients and potential drug customers. She has herself been the victim of a broken family and came to London to seek a fresh life, only to be sucked into the world of criminality, but she is represented as someone who is sympathetic and with stereotypical ‘nurturing’ characteristics. She becomes Bill’s ‘help’ in offering re-assurance that she would care for the boys. Steph is also a victim of a disrupted family with a drunken father and baby to look after, adopting the ‘mother’ role at a very young age. She is represented as a stable influence on Dean, but is also represented as flirty and highly sexualised.
The Probation Officer and the Social Worker are represented as women who are themselves educated working class and aware of the problems encountered by the community. They are represented as naïve in dealing with their clients who know how to manipulate the system. The police are represented as being unable to enforce the law in the criminal underworld of the gang/drugs culture, but are quick to re-arrest Bill after he has assaulted the gang.
There is little representation of ethnicity in the film, apart from the Asian client of Roxy shown at the beginning, and the black character on the fringes of Terry’s gang, who quickly evaporates from the scene when the going gets rough – ‘it’s not my cup of tea’.
The film shows the social problems that lie behind criminal behaviour, with its concentration on the urban landscape, the dilapidated dwellings, the ‘street’ culture, and the dependence on low level crime to get by.


The film opens with the sound of doors closing and locking against a black screen. Bill is then seen walking along a coast-line, and then getting of the Isle of Wight Ferry. We assume he’s been in prison on the Isle of Wight, later he refers to Park Hill Prison, a derivation of two real prisons on the island, Parkhurst and Camp Hill.
The tone of the film is set by the opening soundtrack of The Guns of Brixton by the The Clash –
When they kick out your front door
How you gonna come?
With your hands on your head
Or on the trigger of your gun……..
Two young boys are shown living together in a high rise flat, in what is clearly a run-down council estate. The older boy, after getting him out of bed, Dean takes his younger brother Jimmy to school, (although Jimmy is soon seen climbing out of a window) then Dean goes to work on a building site that overlooks the Olympic Stadium in Stratford.
The opening of the film ticks all the boxes for a classic ‘Social Realism’ film – a contemporary situation, shot in real urban locations, with all its difficulties, with characters from working class backgrounds who are struggling to cope with the ‘daily grind’ and living within or near the border of illegal means.
An Asian man (cameo appearance here from Hardeep Singh Koli!) is seen lying in bed and gives a £10 note to a girl – later we know her as Roxy – supposedly for her ‘cab fare’.
After trying to ring the flat and getting no answer, Bill turns up and knocks on the door, getting no answer again he asks a neighbour if a woman and children are living there, an eastern European man tells him to F… off. He wals through the town and passes two men – later we know them as Pill and Dickie from Terry’s gang. They recognise Bill and ring Terry who is at home with Roxy counting money and dealing drugs. Bill goes to the pub and Terry and his gang are there, he is welcomed home, offered money, and Roxy as a gift, and despite his best efforts they get him drunk. They take him home to the boys, and introduce him as their dad. When he wakes he asks Dean where his mum is – she has left to live in Spain he’s told. Dean rejects him ,and Jimmy doesn’t recognise him. At the building site, where Dean is clearly working illegally, he is told off for being late again, and there is a strong hint of something dodgy going on.
Bill has an interview with his Probation Officer, he tells her that he plans to go up north and work on the oil rigs, she asks where he’s living and then asks who is looking after the boys, they’re too young to be left on their own. She informs Child Services and tells Bill to expect a visit at home. Dean is furious that Bill has ‘grassed’ on them, and threatens to grass Bill up to the police unless he stays long enough to convince the Social Worker that he’s staying to look after them. The Social Worker visits and finds the flat in a terrible state, they will return in a few days after they’ve considered the situation. in another flat we see a younger girl – we later know her as Steph – with her drunken useless father played by Marc Warren, a man – Pill – knocks on the window and swears at her for not taking the baby to his mother – is he the father of the baby?
Bill wakes up on the sofa and takes Jimmy to school – real life Rokeby School in Newham – where he is met by the teacher who accuses Jimmy of vandalism and says she needs to talk to Bill. He says he’s too busy and lies about Jimmy’s movements. Back at the flat he looks for and finds a money boox, which is empty, with a note from his ex-wife. He gets a call from one of Terry’s gang who takes him to a cemetery to meet Glen – Andy Serkis playing what is clearly the local Godfather. Bill is in the background, Glen recognises him and tells Terry to keep an eye on him. He says he is not the only franchise in the area and they don’t want a ‘Gunfight at the OK Coral’, not the first western reference, the title has a ‘sheriff’ star’ and this appears in the credits. Terry and his gang are in a café with Bill talling about Bill going to work on the oil rigs when two policemen come in, one recognises Bill and warns him to stay out of trouble and stop associating with known criminals. At home Bill is going through all the cupboards looking for money, then he sees the Probation Officer who tells him he needs to find a job. At home again we see Bill cleaning the flat, he opens a letter that he turns into a paper plane. When Jimmy comes home they launch apper planes form the balcony and play scalextric, Dean comes home and sees them playing ‘happy families’. Bill finds some jewellery and a watch which he pawns and uses to bury scratch cards. At the building site Dean speaks to the girl with the baby – Steph . Bill finds a photo album with pictures of him with the kids when they were young.
Bill get a job holding a advertising board for £3 an hour. Jimmy is recruited by Pill into Terry’s gang and smokes hash in a car. At home Bill makes a proper meal for Jimmy which he enjoys. Dean comes home again and feels that Jimmy is being sucked in to Bill’s happy family ideal. At the building site Dean speaks to Steph and they are flirting, Steph invites Dean round to have his hair cut. In the shopping precinct Bill is holding his advertising board and is threatened by the gang, we can see that he’ll do anything not to have to go back to prison. In the supermarket Bill meets Roxy, Bill says he wants to make Dean a cake for his 16th birthday, but Roxy says he’s too old for a cake. Dean sees Jimmy with the gang and takes him home to find that Bill has arranged a present for Dean – Roxy in his bed, he rejects her and calls her a ‘brass’ and is furious with Bill. At the same time the Social Worker visits and is pleased with the way the flat has been cleaned, although she is not allowed to see in Dean’s room where Roxy is.
At Terry’s house they are opening a brick of cocaine, mixing it with Bicarbonate of Soda, and making crack. Outside Bill is getting paid for his job and Dean takes him a cup of tea – is the ice melting between Bill and Dean? Bill goes to school to talk to the teacher about Jimmy. In the street Jimmy and his friend Boz are stopped by the police, Jimmy has some drugs which he puts down the drain. They take Jimmy to see Terry who is angry at the loss of the drugs and hurts Jimmy. Roxy tries to defend Jimmy and condems Terry for employing a ten year old but gets hit by Niel. Dean goes to see Steph, they are getting it on but are interrupted by Steph’s drunken dad. Outside Jimmy is watching and nips in to steal money.
Roxy goes to Bill and asks to stay because she wants to get away from the gang. Steph accuses Dean of stealing and says she never wants to see him again, but Steph tells Dean that it was Jimmy that stole the money. The Social Worker visits and offers an agreement for Bill to have care of the two boys. Dean sees the letter and says that Bill has kept his bargain and can leave. Bill hears about Jimmy working for Terry and goes to look for him, he sees Dickie and Pill and threatens them, telling them to leave Jimmy alone. Jimmy runs off and Bill chases him to a roof-top – one of Bill’s old hide-aways. Bill tells him about his experience in prison and how Jimmy will end up in the same place if he carries on the way he has. He has a choice about which way his life goes. They go to Steph’s house to give her back the money he had stolen. Steph comes round to the flat to make it up with Dean, Bill, Roxy and Jimmy go out to get Chinese. Outside the Chinese a small boy tells Bill that Terry wants to meet him the following day. They take their meal home and everything seems to be happy, there is just an instrumental soundtrack. Bill and Roxy are becoming a couple.
The gang are getting tooled up and getting re-enforcements in. The next day he goes to the pub, on the way a close up of Bill in the lift shows that he is aware that he is facing his destiny. Jimmy follows his dad. At the pub the gang set about him, but he becomes ‘Wild Bill’ again, taking all of them on at once. Bill has got a cosh from the barman, Terry gets the gun and tries to shoot him but misses Bill and hits Pill. With the help of the barman he beats up Terry, and goes off with Jimmy. They meet Glen. Bill tells Glen that he served time for him. Glen threatens him and tells him to stay out of his way.
A police car pulls up and they arrest Bill, before he gets in the car he tells Dean, Jimmy and Roxy that he’ll come back to them and asks Roxy to look after them. In the police car he asks the drive if he has kids. Bill points out Dean and Jimmy and says that they’re his boys, and he’s their dad. He starts to cry, but this soon turns to laughter.Bill’s journey is complete, he is going back to prison, but he is going back knowing that he has re-gained his self respect and has something to live for.


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