An ex-con comes home and learns to be a dad to his two sons in thesp Dexter Fletcher’s slight helming debut, “Wild Bill.” Fletcher’s script, co-written with novelist Danny King and Tim Cole, hits all the cliches of the genre, and given its smallscreen lighting and weak fight choreography, this slice of inoffensive feel-good entertainment lacks the kind of grit and nuance demanded of British working-class tales in fest slots. Theatrical play might generate an initial spike of interest in Blighty, but “Wild Bill” is basic, mild TV fare with cussing thrown in for atmosphere.
After eight years in the slammer, Bill (Charlie Creed-Miles) heads back to his old stomping ground in East London. No one is exactly waiting for him: His wife took a powder nine months earlier, leaving 15-year-old Dean (Will Poulter) and 11-year-old Jimmy (Sammy Williams) to fend for themselves in their rundown apartment in the projects. Jimmy barely remembers Dad and could care less, but Dean is a powder keg of resentment and doesn’t want his father around.
Bill’s not interested in hanging about, either, but the kids will be placed in foster homes unless he stays put, so Dean blackmails Bill into playing the happy family at least until the social workers stop coming around. Notwithstanding his near-constant anger, Dean is a good kid, working construction jobs to keep food on the table, but little Jimmy’s become a drug runner for the same gangsters who sent Dad up the river. As Bill discovers the emotional rewards of being a parent, he works on making sure his younger son doesn’t wind up in the same trouble as his old man.
A couple of locals mention Bill’s former “Wild” moniker, but the script does little to persuade viewers that this decent yet misguided guy had a violent streak, even under the influence. The gangsters, especially Pill (Iwan Rheon, over-acting), come from a well-worn book of hoodlum types, as does Roxy (Liz White), the whore with a heart of gold. The leads do their best to carve out real characters, though they’re offered little to work with beyond the surface.
Visuals are standard, lit in a clear, artificial manner that will work well on the tube. A nice touch is Fletcher’s use of the building site where Dean works, located in the 2012 Olympic stadium area. Pic was feted by the San Sebastian Film Festival’s youth jury.