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Film:

Bullet Boy

Year of release: 2004

Directed by: Saul Dibb

United Kingdom

Referred to as British Boyz N The Hood, compared to Juice and Ratcatcher, inspired by Ken Loach's Kes, Saul Dibb's feature film debut Bullet Boy is the story of a futile attempt to break out of a criminal milieu that ends with the protagonist's killing.

20-year-old Ricky Walters, of Afro-Caribbean origin and living in Hackney, East London, is released from prison and is welcomed by his 12-year-old brother Curtis and old friend Wisdom. On the way home, Wisdom gets involved in a confrontation with Godfrey, the leader of another local gang. During the course of the evening a fight ensues and Wisdom shoots Godfrey's dog. Ricky takes the gun home and hides it.

Ricky realises that he has to leave Hackney in order escape from the spiral of violence and crime. His girlfriend Shea promises to go with him (but later, after Ricky has re-entered the world of crime and violence, rejects him). However, before Ricky has a chance to change his life, he gets drawn back into the vicious circuit of 'owing a favour'  to his criminal friends, retaliation and violence. Meanwhile, Curtis discovers the gun and he and his friend Rio play with it in the fields and canals of Walthamstow marshes, a surprisingly idyllic setting that contrasts with the criminalised urban ghetto of Hackney's 'Murder Mile'. Curtis accidentally shoots Rio, who is taken to hospital and saved. Rio forgives Curtis yet his ominious remark that Curtis now 'owes' him, suggests that Curtis, too, will end up in the same vicious circuit from which his brother Ricky is unable to escape. After the accident, Ricky's and Curtis' mother, Beverley, wants to protect her younger son Curtis from the bad influence of Ricky and asks Ricky to leave home. Ricky follows his mother's wishes, but within hours he is ambushed and shot dead by Godfrey's gang. Beverley identifies her dead son's body. Curtis goes to the place where Ricky has hidden the gun and throws it into the canal, signalling his intention to rather be called 'a mummy's boy than a crackhead'. 

Saul Dibb's film is a comment on the rising number of gun-related offences in Britain, a theme, which he felt, has not been adequately reflected in the British context.  When pitching the project he described it as 'Kes with guns', making reference the film's theme which sharply contrasts with the unexpected lyricism of certain scenes involving Curtis (Luke Fraser). Lead actor Ashley Walters, who plays Ricky Walters, better known as rapper Asher D from UK garage collective So Solid Crew, was himself sentenced to a young offenders' institution for posession of a firearm. The film's cast includes many young non-professional black actors who were given a thirty-page scene-by-scene outline but no screenplay as such. Dibb used a lot of improvisation and rehearsals to achieve a sense of authenticity.  

Internet Movie Database

Filed under: Black British | Coming of age | Crime | Mothers | Sons

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