Six years after KIdULTHOOD, Sam Peel is released from jail for killing Trife, he realizes that life is no easier on the outside than it was on the inside and he's forced to confront the ... See full summary »
Scarlett Alice Johnson,
The family of Raymond, his wife Val and her brother Billy live in working-class London district. Also in their family is Val and Billy's mother Janet and grandmother Kath. Billy is a drug ... See full summary »
Back in 1980, Franco Rosso's Babylon, starring Aswad's Brinsley Forde, told the story of young black Britain under siege. Filmed around Deptford, Lewisham and Brixton in south London and financed by the National Film Council, it drew a fundamentally honest, unsentimental portrait, employing a rich, unsubtitled patois. Understandably, much of the film also dealt with racism - white on black - and its tragic repercussions.
Twenty-five years on, the most significant (and depressing) thing about Saul Dibb's study of black Londoners is its frank recognition that the hate and violence has since turned inward - manifested in gun crime.
In Bullet Boy, 20-year-old Ricky (Walters, aka So Solid Crew's Asher D) is paroled from youth custody and attempts to rekindle a relationship with his girlfriend Shea (Samuels). Hooking up with his hot-headed friend - the ironically named Wisdom (Black) - he almost immediately runs into trouble with rival Godfrey (Lawson) in a road rage incident. As the tit-for-tat feud escalates, Ricky's impressionable 12-year-old brother Curtis (Fraser) discovers a gun which Wisdom has given Ricky for his protection - and the murderous cycle of violence continues.
This is a film of firsts. Arriving some 15 years after a brace of similarly-themed American films, such as John Singleton's Boyz N The Hood, this is the first film to spotlight gun violence in Britain's black community, and makes an interesting comparison. It's documentary maker Dibb's first feature too, having previously made 'Electric Avenue' and 'The Tottenham Ayatollah' for Channel 4 television. And it's Asher's (okay, Walters') movie debut.
It's a cute - and astute - stroke of casting: he'd read the script while in prison for gun possession. And the cast is one of the things Bullet Boy has got right, featuring gutsy and unsentimental performances, particularly from the all too convincing lead, but also from stand-up comedian Curtis Walker as a former bad-boy-turned-pastor and Perkins as a pragmatic matriarch.
The use of non-professional actors also imbues proceedings with documentary-style naturalism, matched by the film's east London locations, photographed by Marcel Zyskind in pitiless natural light, and employed very effectively during a recurring motif of a dead dog floating on a river like the ghost at the feast.
Though Dibb cannot hope to encompass the whole subject matter in a 90-minute film, his focus on how gun culture affects the entire family unit is an intelligent approach, making the wider issue accessible - and subsequently harder hitting.
If certain sequences appear heavy-handed - 12-year-old Curtis playing shoot-em-up videogames as a prescient prelude to tragedy; the Godfather-style juxtaposition between a church sermon and a murder - well, perhaps that's the way it ought to be.
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