2012 Running time: 95 Certificate: 15 Rating: 4

Synopsis

Out of prison after eight years, reformed East End villain Bill Hayward (Charlie Creed-Miles) has no intention of returning to his old life – or looking after his sons, now aged 11 and 15, despite finding them abandoned by their mother. But when the eldest (Son of Rambow's Will Poulter) threatens to put Social Services on his case, Bill is forced to face up to his responsibilities. In his first feature behind the camera, actor Dexter Fletcher shows real, um, dexterity with a grittily engaging tale of crime and redemption that's buoyed by a raft of familiar British faces and gobfuls of London-dry lip.

Director

  • Dexter Fletcher

Cast

  • Charlie Creed-Miles

  • Will Poulter

  • Leo Gregory

  • Liz White

  • Jaime Winstone

  • Andy Serkis

Review

Having been around film sets since being knee-high to Jodie Foster and dealt with a few drug issues of his own, Dexter "Babyface" Fletcher brings plenty of experience to his directorial debut.

The erstwhile star of Bugsy Malone and ITV's Grange Hill-rival Press Gang also shares the credit (with Danny King) for a smashing script that sees Creed-Miles' reformed wild man Bill back in bovver from the moment he sets foot in his old Stratford boozer.

"The usual, Bill? Ten pints, two grams, and a punch-up?" Nah mate, all the new Bill wants is a swift Coke (the soft drink, not the hard stuff) and to check in with the wife and kids before heading to Scotland for a fresh start.

Unfortunately, his old drug-pushing partner Terry (Leo Gregory) is keen to get him back in the game.

Worse yet, Bill discovers that the missus has scarpered to Spain with her new bloke, leaving teenager Dean (Poulter) and young tearaway Jimmy (Sammy Williams) to fend for themselves.

After ditching school to work on a building site, Dean is now the man of the house. As far as he's concerned, Bill can sling his hook.

But when the authorities start sniffing around, Dean is forced to blackmail his dad into playing happy families. If he doesn't, the boys are heading straight into care.

While eschewing the mockney flash of his Lock, Stock mucker Guy Ritchie, Fletcher's kitchen sink is brighter than most, filled more with Shane Meadows brass than Ken Loach gloom.

It's a world where the Olympics is less a world-uniting event than a quick-grab opportunity and casual violence is as common as roll-up fags and cans of Stella. But Fletcher and King thread a rich vein of decency straight through it.

As scumbag Terry presses Jimmy (and other pint-sized villains) into his gang, it's also clear that Fletcher has been paying attention to The Wire, while a paper plane provides the film with its own moment of American Beauty.

And, as the title suggests, it all heads towards an inevitable showdown at the E15 corral.

While Creed-Miles and the boys provide the credibly dysfunctional core, momentum is carried through Liz White's Northern tart with a heart and a host of well-judged cameos from Jaime Winstone and Jason Flemyng as sympathetic social workers, Olivia Williams as Bill's probation officer, and a two-scene turn from Andy Serkis as a reptilian crime boss.

So if you want someone to carve out a slice of urban life with grit, wit and a cast of British non-luvvies, get Babyface.

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