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  • Writer's pictureJames Rutherford

‘Bullet Boy’: A Landmark Depiction of Urban Warfare on the Streets of East London

Movie poster for the British film Bullet Boy starring Ashley Walters and Leon Black

“Bullet Boy” (2004) is a tense and volatile urban thriller from the United Kingdom starring Ashley Walters (“Top Boy”) as Ricky, an 18 year-old youth offender recently released from prison who returns home to the Borough of Hackney, focused entirely on atonement and personal reclamation.

Collected by his erratic and often caustic childhood mate Wisdom (Leon Black), Ricky is witness to a minor car accident on Wisdom’s part—damaging a vehicle owned by a local gang member named Godfrey (Clark Lawson) and narrowly averting a violent exchange. Despite returning a handgun to Ricky held for safe-keeping, Wisdom remains incensed by Godfrey’s disrespect while harboring a deep-seated hunger for further reprisal—reprisal that ultimately puts both young men as well as Ricky’s young brother Curtis (Luke Fraser) in a state of severe endangerment.

Co-written and directed by British filmmaker Saul Dibb (“The Duchess”, “Journey’s End”), “Bullet Boy” is a gritty, authentic tale of provocation from London’s “Murder Mile”—the notorious heart of Hackney’s burgeoning culture of drug trade and crime. Indeed “Bullet Boy” is widely considered a cinematic landmark and forbearer to “Top Boy” and numerous films and programs focused on urban warfare in the UK. Though it won’t overwhelm you with a wildly original narrative per se, it remains a high-touch and remarkably absorbing tale of soul searching, moral ambiguity and all-too-tragic inevitability.


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