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Bullet Boy

You only get one shot at life. 

Year: 2004 
Running Time:
Aspect Ratio: Unknown 
Certificate: BBFC 15 Cert – Not suitable for under 15s 
Subtitles: This film is not expected to be subtitled, though this cannot be guaranteed. 
Directed by Unknown 
Starring: Unknown  
An image from Bullet Boy

Released at a period when violent crime, especially in large cities, is becoming worryingly prevalent, it is not surprising that Director Saul Dibb – a man previously concerned with documentary production – would choose the topic of gun crime and gang culture for his first feature. Bullet Boy follows the path of Ricky (Ashley Walters), freshly released from a young offenders' institute, back to the streets of Hackney. Whilst determined to go straight, Ricky instead heads straight back into trouble. Siding with his best friend Wisdom (Leon Black) in a street confrontation, the trouble soon escalates and threatens to envelop not just Ricky but his younger brother, Curtis (Luke Fraser). Whether Curtis will follow suit, however, remains the film's primary concern. Will he make the right decision, or simply appease Ricky, falling further into the trap of hero-worship that he projects onto his brother? Here, it would appear, the gun is the final decider.

It is in the delivery of this story, rather than the plot itself, where Bullet Boy truly excels. So determined to deliver a realistic portrayal of the characters and story, Dibb manages to steer clear of a typical, Loach-style social drama. Instead, Bullet Boy is both an objective social observation piece and a, albeit rather dark, thriller.

Throughout Bullet Boy, performances are strong and heartfelt. Leading man Ashley Walters was himself serving time during the early stages of production for Bullet Boy, and it is this unpretentious, true-to-life familiarity, on the part of the actors, with the subject matter that makes Dibb's film so engaging. Perhaps those who aren't Londoners themselves wont pick up on the realism and sincerity of the dialogue, but this alone should not detract from the film. Whereas many films dealing with similar issues would rely solely on aesthetic grittiness in order to convey their story, it is Bullet Boy's ability to be both bleak and upsetting, yet engaging and, ultimately, a hopeful film that sets it apart from similar dramas. Like the tagline states, 'You only get one shot at life', you only get one chance to see a film like this on a big screen this term. Don't pass it by.

Edward Hemming

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Screenings of this film:

2005/2006 Autumn Term (35mm)