Wild Bill is an independent British social realist drama, the directorial debut of actor Dexter Fletcher, and was released in March 2012. Set in London's East End, ‘Wild Bill’, previously something of a legend amongst the local criminal fraternity, returns home after eight years in prison. Discovering the mother of his 15 and 11 year old sons has abandoned the lads, Bill reluctantly agrees to look after them, so that Social Services won’t take them into care. But Bill finds it hard to form a relationship with his sons after being away for so long, and his youngest lad is already involved with dangerous drug dealers.
The film’s distributors did not make a age rating request. Examiners noted the defining issues in the film were numerous: strong language, very strong language, hard drug use, strong violence and strong sex references.
Defining issues are those which secure the age rating, though many films feature other content which is discussed by examiners and might be of interest to parents or viewers. That information is always recorded in long ratings info. Examiners use the BBFC Guidelines, current research and the law as the basis for all decision making, also bearing in mind recent decisions with similar works.
There are over forty uses of strong language ('f**k') in the film, some of which is used aggressively, but this is permissible under Guidelines at 15. The two uses of very strong language ('c**t') are both by unsympathetic characters, and are not delivered with any particular aggression: the first is in conversation, about somebody not present, and the second is muttered under a man’s breath as he turns away from Bill. Other important considerations for acceptability at 15 are that neither instance is from a male to a female, and neither provokes, nor is accompanied by, immediate violence.
There is also some hard drug preparation and use shown in the film. This includes sight of a large block of cocaine being carved up, with one of the men tasting a little of it. This is followed by a montage set to music, showing cocaine cooked up with baking soda added to it in a coffee pot. Liquid is poured through a filter as it is mixed with additives, and rocks of crack cocaine are produced. A drug dealer snorts some of the mixture, and the drugs are bagged up and passed to a lad for selling. One character chops out lines of cocaine and briefly sniffs them, and a man smokes a little too. Guidelines at 15 state ‘Drug taking may be shown but the film as a whole must not promote or encourage drug misuse’.
The examiners agreed the film as a whole does not glamorise nor encourage viewers to use drugs, as its stance is highly moral. Drugs are shown in a negative light, used by unattractive, nasty people, to whom bad things happen.
Bill himself is very explicitly anti-drugs, and tries to steer his younger son away from this dangerous world by relating his own disastrous experiences. He also eventually takes a stand against the cowardly bullies who prepare and sell the drugs. There is also no clear imitable instructive detail in the 'cooking up' sequence, such as a step-by-step process, a complete list of all of the substances being used, or the exact quantities required to cook up crack from cocaine. It was considered that the concept of preparing drugs for sale is not something that would be unknown to any likely older teen viewers. There is also a negatively presented scene of soft drug use as some adults smoke and pass a cannabis joint to a Bill’s youngest son, who hesitantly takes a puff, but starts coughing violently.
There is one scene featuring strong violence, when the boys' father confronts the drug dealing gang. In a six-against-one fight, there are undetailed and partly masked heavy blows, punches to the face, head butts, kicking and punching a man on the ground. The violence is filmed in a realistic style and shows a limited amount of blood and the obvious consequences of contact blows, so avoiding glamorising the violence. The editing is rapid and often cuts away at the point of contact. Another moment of strong violence sees one of the nastiest drug dealers suddenly, without warning, punch his girlfriend hard in the face. The camera angle masks the impact of the blow, and we later see a cut and bruise on her cheekbone. Refusing to accept such treatment, she leaves him. It was considered that, within the narrative, all of the violence was permissible within at 15, where the Guidelines state 'Violence may be strong but should not dwell on the infliction of pain or injury'.
There are also infrequent strong sex references in the film. These include comments such as Bill’s 15 year old son angrily saying to a woman “Cocksucking just a sideline is it?”, and a mouthy young lad telling Bill in the street “Suck my dick, batty boy”. As Bill explains to his youngest son about the dangers of getting involved in drug dealing, he warns him “Nonces will want to rump you” in prison. These are not the strongest type of sex references that might exceed 15 Guidelines allowances, but they were considered to be too strong and crude to be acceptable at 12A.
Other, more minor issues in the film include a moderate sex scene and moderate and mild language, such as 'bitch', 'prick', 'wank', 'bollocks', 'arse', 'piss', 'bastard', 'bloody' and 'arse'.
A trailer for the film was seen by examiners for advice, with the distributor requesting a 12A rating. An advice screening is a facility offered by the BBFC to distributors in which works can be viewed by a senior or experienced examiner who can give the company advice as to the likely category a work will receive. Sometimes companies alter films or trailers on the basis of this advice, to make it more likely that they will achieve a desired category. Some implied violence and sight of a woman in underwear lying on top of a man in the trailer for Wild Bill was considered to be at the top end of the 12A category, but relatively brief and therefore acceptable. However, an image of a young lad smoking either a cigarette or joint was judged sufficiently strong to take the whole trailer to 15, as it would otherwise come unbidden to a potentially young audience. The distributors subsequently chose to remove the brief scene of the boy smoking, to achieve a 12A rating.
Wild Bill was selected for National Schools Film Week in 2012.