100 Streets, 2016.
Directed by John O’Hanlon
Starring Idris Elba, Gemma Arterton, Franz Drameh, Charlie Creed-Miles, Kierston Wareing and Ken Stott.
Set against the streets of Chelsea, three separate stories of people facing personal crises overlap: a former rugby star whose marriage is crumbling before his eyes, a cab driver whose life is devastated by an accident and a young man trying to escape a life of crime on a local estate.
For a while last year, it seemed that Idris Elba could do no wrong – The Jungle Book, Star Trek Beyond – and his involvement in 100 Streets as both producer and actor predictably boosted expectations. Except that this was a film made back in 2014 which only made it into cinemas last autumn. Now out on DVD, the reasons why it received a lukewarm welcome in UK cinemas are all too apparent.
The streets of the title are in Chelsea where opulence and elegance live cheek by jowl with high-rise estates, unemployment and disaffected youth. We’re presented with three stories, plus a fourth that affects all of them. A former rugby star and his beautiful ex-actress wife (Elba and Gemma Arterton) whose marriage reaches crisis point. A cab driver and his wife (Charlie Creed-Miles and Kierston Weareing) whose lives are profoundly changed by a tragic accident. Teenager Kingsley (Franz Drameh) who is mixed up in gang culture on his estate and wants out. And ex-actor Terence (Ken Stott) who plays a role in each story, even if only in passing.
It’s what used to be known as a portmanteau film, packaging the stories into one film and connecting them through its themes. But here, instead of telling the stories consecutively, director John O’Hanlon opts for a parallel structure, chopping and changing from one to the other. This has some advantages – lines of dialogue spilling into one narrative from another, Stott’s character acting as a link – but it also has a major downside. All the time the focus is on one storyline, you find yourself wondering about the other characters and what’s happening to them. And that’s distracting.
The character development is patchy, even though the actors do their best with what they’re given. But there simply isn’t always enough for them to get their teeth into. Charlie Creed-Miles comes off best as taxi driver, George, a likeable, ordinary guy who coaches the local kids’ football team. He looks – and sounds – completely at home behind the wheel of his cab and you feel for him when taking on his last fare of the day turns out to be the worst decision of his life. Elba and Arterton get the showier roles, he as the ex-rugby star with the eye for ladies and taste for drugs that prove to be his downfall, she as the former actress who has to choose between her lover and her family. And Ken Stott hovers in the background like a guardian angel in red Beats headphones, connecting everything but getting precious little reward for his efforts.
Having faced their respective crises, nearly everybody gets a predictable happy ending with almost a fairy tale quality. Kingsley’s, on the other hand, is more questionable: his follows immediately after instigating an act of extreme violence. And then it’s as if it never happened.
Essentially, 100 Streets is a modern day version of the philosophy that everything’s connected. The characters all walk the same streets, their lives all touch each other’s to a greater or lesser extent. But, ultimately, the film doesn’t have anything new to tell us on the subject. It’s a social tapestry that unravels all too easily.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★