100 Streets seems to aim for Crash in London, but lands in overwrought soapy territory, with respected big-name actors such as Idris Elba, Gemma Arterton and Ken Stott surrounded by unexpectedly low production values. Most of the lead performances are commendable, especially given the lack of character development, poor dialogue and repetition the actors have to put up with.
Leon Butler’s concept is similar in setting and scenario to Zadie Smith’s novel (and upcoming BBC adaptation) NW, but with far less incisive identity politics. Instead Butler tends towards cliché and caricature with copy-and-paste gang heavies who could have walked off another film set. Elba’s famous but lonely sportsman can be affecting, but has been done better elsewhere, including in the forthcoming The Pass.
100 Streets strikes an odd balance between the “three” stories it covers – it’s actually more – with some characters disappearing for large portions of the runtime only to return when you’d almost forgotten them. The standout relationship is between Stott’s aging theatre actor and mid-level gang kid Kingsley, played by Franz Drameh, whose performance is the film’s highlight, and will hopefully lead to us seeing more of him on the big screen.
Butler continues the ensemble-cast trend for obsessive if incidental interlinking of stories and delivers a series of climaxes that feel at best contrived and at worst ridiculous. There’s a huge overreliance on missed or unanswered phone calls as a desperate plot device, and far too many unimaginative shots of characters sitting angsting in bed.
100 Streets is a lazy yet largely effective piece of entertainment. The narrative beats may be predictable and unoriginal, but at least they’re well paced. The stories illicit minimal empathy though, and it’s hard to shake the feeling that you’re watching a soap omnibus.
CAST: Idris Elba, Gemma Arterton, Tom Cullen, Ryan Gage, Ken Stott
DIRECTOR: Jim O’Hanlon
WRITER: Leon Butler
SYNOPSIS: Three people, three extraordinary stories. All lived out within a hundred London streets.