Don't miss 'affecting and intense' British black comedy on Netflix

amazon, don't miss 'affecting and intense' british black comedy on netflix

Wild Bill. Difficult not to chant like Duran Duran’s Wild Boys once the idea occurs to you (Picture: NBC Universal)

Our hidden gem miner Steve Charnock digs out more overlooked older content from the streaming services…

There’s the surprisingly touching British black comedy-drama Wild Bill, well-pruned horticultural crime thriller Master Gardener and the underrated decade-old HBO action series Banshee to choose from this week.

All three are well worthy of your televisual attention, providing as they do a welcome antidote to some of the lesser new films and telly shows pushed our way by the likes of Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Apple+ TV and Disney Plus.

Why not give at least one a run out this weekend? You won’t regret it.

Wild Bill (2011), Netflix

amazon, don't miss 'affecting and intense' british black comedy on netflix

Wild Bill’s got all claret comin’ out his nut (Picture: NBC Universal)

The late nineties and early 2000s saw an absolute glut of films from Brit producers eager to cash in on the runaway success of Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. Guy Ritchie’s cocky cockney caper inspired a serious number of lazy aitch-dropping copycats that would blight Blockbuster Video ex-rental bins for years to come.

Some of these rip-offs were bad (The Business), others were terrible (Love, Honour and Obey) and a few were truly sinful cinematic aberrations (Rancid Aluminum).

Thankfully, all that tediousness eventually died a death and soon, a grittier side to London began to be shown on the big screen. Crime flicks such as Bullet Boy, Hyena and Kidulthood shaped a more realistic cinematic view of crime in the capital.

amazon, don't miss 'affecting and intense' british black comedy on netflix

Wild Will Poulter (Picture: NBC Universal)

Ironically, one of the best examples of this change would come from a Guy Ritchie alumni.

Lock Stock actor Dexter Fletcher’s remarkably assured directorial debut came some 13 years after his, Nick Moran’s, Jason Statham’s and Jason Flemyng’s daft-but-fun on-screen antics.

There’s a flair and confidence to the way the former Press Gang and Bugsy Malone child star went about shaping Wild Bill that demonstrates why he would later be trusted with big-budget biopic projects like Bohemian Rhapsody and Rocketman.

amazon, don't miss 'affecting and intense' british black comedy on netflix

A Pringle tank top over a check shirt, a memorable Spring 2011 fashion trend (Picture: NBC Universal)

Wild Bill features a truly excellent and memorable central performance from Charlie Creed-Miles. Watching this 13-year-old film back you wonder just how the Nottingham-born actor didn’t end up as acting royalty, as opposed to just a respected lower-order member of the thespian aristocracy.

Creed-Miles plays the eponymous Wild Bill, a recently paroled man returning to his East London home after an eight stretch to find his young sons living alone, abandoned by their mother. He struggles to reconnect with his boys while being forced to confront his criminal past (and Andy Serkis’ especially nasty crime boss) in order to protect his family.

amazon, don't miss 'affecting and intense' british black comedy on netflix

The hoodie budget for this film must’ve been enormous (Picture: NBC Universal)

It’s a redemption tale with hefty Western overtones that just works on every level. A strong supporting cast helps with the heavy lifting: Will Poulter is especially impressive, while Neil Maskell, Olivia Williams, Liz White, Leo Gregory and Iwan Rheon ably assist in making this several dozen cuts above your usual Cockernee crime flick.

This could easily have been a ropey sub-Lock, Stock effort, like so many other forgettable British films of the past 25 years. Instead, it’s a moving, funny, intense and extremely well-balanced 98 minutes. No wonder 100% of all critic reviews were wild about Bill.

If you like it, try streaming: Ill Manors, Shifty, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels

Master Gardener (2022), Amazon Prime Video

amazon, don't miss 'affecting and intense' british black comedy on netflix

Joel Edgerton’s parting in this film is one very much inspired by the precision and style of a French formal garden (Picture: Vertigo Releasing)

Ask any green-fingered film buff and they’ll tell you – gardening is woefully marginalised in film. Even today, when Hollywood is super focused on equality, diversity and representation, horticulture tends to remain rather cruelly ignored as a major plot point.

Why? Well, it’s something of a hard sell, really. No matter how many times the presenter of the BBC’s Gardener’s World might pitch the idea to Paramount Pictures, there really isn’t much of a market for a remake of The Godfather centred around the character of ‘Don Monty’, the tough but fair head of one of the UK’s leading chains of gardening centres (‘Look how they massacred my begonias!‘).

amazon, don't miss 'affecting and intense' british black comedy on netflix

There really aren’t enough gardens or ornate summer houses in modern cinema (Picture: Vertigo Releasing)

Legendary writer-director Paul Schrader saw to address the issue recently with Master Gardener, a quietly intense film that’s as much about hedges and hydrangeas as it is about race politics, forgiveness and the absolution of past sins.

Of course, the growing and cultivation of flowers and plants is all metaphorical. Joel Edgerton is Narvel Roth, the meticulous, quiet and studious head tulip fiddler at Gracewood Gardens, a beautifully manicured estate owned by well-off widow Norma Haverhill (played with icy precision by Sigourney Weaver).

amazon, don't miss 'affecting and intense' british black comedy on netflix

At Gracewood Gardens their polo shirts are as green as their fingers (Picture: Vertigo Releasing)

His ordered existence gets disrupted when Norma entrusts Narvel with her problematic young niece Maya (Quintessa Swindell). A troubled young woman he’s told to hire as a member of the ground’s gardening staff in order to provide her with guidance and purpose needed to help fight her problems with addiction.

Narvel and Maya grow close and, like with previous pick Wild Bill, someone trying to straighten out is forced to go back to their old ways in order to break someone they care about free from the clutches of criminal evil.

amazon, don't miss 'affecting and intense' british black comedy on netflix

Sigourney Weaver: Ice Queen (Picture: Vertigo Releasing)

It’s not exactly a bundle of laughs, this. But if you like slow burns and watering ferns, Master Gardener will definitely grow on you.

Just don’t expect too many other plant-heavy films to come out of Hollywood’s garden any time soon.

If you like it, try streaming: Leon, You Were Never Really Here, The Card Counter

Banshee (2013 – 2016), Apple TV+

amazon, don't miss 'affecting and intense' british black comedy on netflix

‘Bartender! Another blackcurrant Fruit Shoot!’ (Picture: HBO Enterprises)

There probably isn’t another television series out there quite like Banshee. It ran for a total of four series’ and 38 episodes on Cinemax in the US and Sky Atlantic over here.

Alright, so the thing didn’t make a huge cultural impact on either side of the Atlantic and rarely gets mentioned in any ‘Best TV Show Ever’ lists. But if there’s been a superior pulpy crime action thriller made, it isn’t far ahead of this tough and wildly imaginative firecracker of a show.

amazon, don't miss 'affecting and intense' british black comedy on netflix

A rare moment of calm in an episode of Banshee not featuring any sex or violence (Picture: HBO Enterprises)

Antony Starr’s mostly known for his grimly arrogant turn as Bad Superman Homelander in Amazon’s clever smash hit superhero satire The Boys. Here, he’s – nominally – the good guy. Albeit a heavily flawed one.

The premise of Banshee is this: in order to escape a mob boss he’s ripped off, Starr’s criminal-on-the-run assumes the identity of a local sheriff in the small town of Banshee, deep in Pennsylvania’s Amish country. It’s not quite the quiet life that ‘Sheriff Lucas Hood’ hopes for, however. Apparently, small towns deep in Pennsylvania’s Amish country are much more exciting than you might imagine.

amazon, don't miss 'affecting and intense' british black comedy on netflix

Must’ve been tempting for Ivana Miličević to do a Charlie Kelly impression here (Picture: HBO Enterprises)

Instead of keeping his head down, the plastic cop decides to go full tilt boogie on an assortment of strange, scary local hoodlums and psychos. And therein lies the fun.

American cable TV of the time revelled in sex ‘n’ violence, so expect plenty of gratuitous nudity, bar brawls and blood.

The best thing about Banshee is that it gets better and better as it goes along. Each episode is wilder and more extreme than the last. The first half of the maiden season is a little silly and tacky in places, but by series two, it’s truly in top gear, revving its engine constantly. Sometimes even quite needlessly.

amazon, don't miss 'affecting and intense' british black comedy on netflix

‘Drink?’ ‘Blackcurrant Fruit Shoot please’ (Picture: HBO Enterprises)

Okay, so it’s no Breaking Bad or Sopranos. But when it comes to fun, trashy TV that’s violent, imaginative, nasty and thrilling, True Blood creators Jonathan Tropper and David Schickler’s energetic thrill ride really does scream like a banshee.

Don’t get Banshee confused with The Banshees of Inisherin though, whatever you do. Both are great, but if you’re expecting a hangdog Colin Farrell frowning into a pint of stout, prison razorblade fights with naked 7ft albinos getting their alabaster appendages sliced off might come as something of an unwelcome surprise.

If you like it, try streaming: Mr. In-Between, Quarry, The Boys

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