Ashley Walters, aka Asher D, is one of the lead rappers in the British rap group So Solid Crew. He went solo in 2001, got into trouble with the law for possessing a firearm in 2002, and did some time in the British equivalent of a juvenile detention center. He makes his film debut in “Bullet Boy” (Saul Dibb) playing a troubled youth named Ricky. Oddly enough, his character begins the film by being released from prison. Like other films where the protagonist has just been paroled and is trying to get his or her life back on track, Ricky is doing what he can to avoid the kind of mess that landed him behind bars in the first place (murder). Loyalty to friends, reluctance to lose face, and a tendency to do what he should not do, however, mean that trouble eventually finds him.
Dibb makes this film with this particular story not to denounce the way people have grown inured to street violence, but to criticize the ease with which violence occurs. For example, Ricky’s little brother Curtis (Luke Fraser) and friend Wisdom (Leon Black) pick him up from prison. They then head back towards their homes. They turn onto either a one-way road or a two-way road rendered narrow by cars parked along both sides of the street and find themselves facing a truck. Wisdom and the other driver share a brief exchange of “you reverse your car and park so I can pass,” “no, you reverse your car and park so I can pass.” Wisdom capitulates and starts to reverse in a curved line. The driver side mirror clips one of the side mirrors of a parked car. Its occupants appear out of “nowhere” and demand Ricky’s friend give them money to pay for the damages. The volume of voices rise, Wisdom refuses to for over any money, and there’s some shoving. It’s just a matter of time before the disagreement escalates into a fight. Suddenly, even against an ostensibly halcyon suburban English neighborhood, the idea of the urban jungle doesn’t seem so clichéd. Humans are still animals after all; although our civilized selves know better than to resolve conflicts with intimidation, given certain environments and ideal circumstances, our truculent nature readily surfaces.
Hostilities from that afternoon continue throughout the film and lead to a scary scene where twelve year-old Curtis finds his brother’s gun and accidentally shoots a friend. There is no end to the violence. Any efforts one takes to sever the cycle are fruitless until something tragic transpires. Though it is truly sad what happens in the end, “Bullet Boy” doesn’t beg for our pity or empathy. Consequently, Dibb gives the impression that he isn’t looking for moral support or a passionate acknowledgement of the film’s theme. “Bullet Boy” is just about a guy who lives in a world he can’t escape alive.