Thursday, June 9, 2016

A Hundred Streets (LA Film Fest 2016)

Disparate people of different race, background, and social status intersect and bounce off each other in Jim O’Hanlon’s A Hundred Streets, a London-set film that attempts to make grand statements about life but ends up being a middling yet still somewhat enjoyable trek through key moments in their lives.

A Hundred Streets
Director: Jim O'Hanlon
Starring: Idris Elba, Gemma Arterton, Franz Drameh

Former rugby superstar Max (Idris Elba) struggles with sobriety after he screwed his nanny and became estranged from his wife Emily (Gemma Arterton), who’s stuck dealing with their children and her own rebound relationship. A young drug dealer named Kingsley (Legends of Tomorrow’s Franz Drameh) feels trapped in his life in the blocks and yearns for a way out, spending his nights philosophizing and harboring hopes of using his creativity in a better line of work. Goofy cabbie George (Charlie Creed-Miles) just wants to be able to adopt a child to make his wife happy. I don’t know about you, but I’ve had about enough of the annoying, Crash-esque trope in which movie characters often unrealistically converge for a single event that dramatically changes all of their lives forever. Thankfully, that’s not the case here; this is more like a couple of characters connect, the story progresses a bit, a familiar face passes in the background, and the camera picks up that story and continues the narrative that way. It’s never obnoxious and always remains this side of plausible, since many of the characters live in the same relatively small London neighborhood.

Full of gorgeous shots of London, the camera lovingly frames all of its lead actors, who do strong work here. I haven’t seen any of Luther so I’m not sure how much of this is retreading familiar territory for Elba, but he brings a physicality to this performance that makes his past as an athlete instantly believable, along with a volatility and vulnerability that works well for this character. Arterton, who Americans might recognize from her mostly expendable roles in big budget action movies like Prince of Persia, Clash of the Titans, and Quantum of Solace, may surprise people with her complicated, sensitive Emily; seeing her here makes me wonder what else she’s capable of, whereas she was instantly forgotten in those aforementioned blockbusters. Drameh, with his thick accent and his character’s desire for a life outside of society’s established role for him, reminded me a bit of John Boyega in Attack the Block; it was only when I looked him up that I realized Drameh himself was actually in Attack the Block also, playing the character of Dennis. Regardless, this is a breakout role for him, and this movie definitely put him on my radar.

Diving into the details of the developments of each of these characters seems unnecessary, especially since I largely found the plot to be more functional than truly compelling. While I don’t think this is going to be one of the festival’s buzziest movies, it has a solid cast and shows some promise as a feature debut for O’Hanlon. Maybe with a slightly better script, he’ll be able to create something a bit more memorable down the road.

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