100 Streets, a powerful ensemble drama, follows three contrasting and interwoven stories as they play out in one square mile of modern day London. A former rugby player, Max (Idris Elba), struggles to find a life off the field while fighting to save his marriage to former actress Emily (Gemma Arterton). Kingsley (Franz Drameh) is a small time drug dealer desperately seeking a way off the street. While completing his community service for a misdemeanor, Kinsley meets Terence (Ken Stott), a local thespian, who gives him the push he needs out of his dead end life and into a very different, creative world. George (Charlie Creed-Miles), a cab driver, and his wife Kathy (Kierston Wareing) dream of having kids, but a devastating road accident puts their hopes on hold even testing their otherwise strong marriage. Anybody can make a wrong turn, but it's the journey that allows us to find the right path.
There are few genres or sub-genres I want to see go the way of the dodo bird. Even if a particular genre grows tiresome, there are occasional entries that make it all worthwhile and can even revitalize a sagging cinematic subsection. That said, the loosely interconnected "all life is travesty" drama sob fest can go to blazes. These movies feature paper-thin characters living in an intricately constructed dour world where the lives of the characters are already in the toilet and their only salvation comes from pulling the chain and coming out on the other end of the drain pipe. 100 Streets - no matter how well acted and written - is just this sort of movie. It's bleak, depressing, and aside from a wonderfully assembled cast acting their hearts out, there's little worth going through the emotional rollercoaster for.
In this instance, I'm actually forced to upend my traditional one or two plot summary because there simply isn't a straight narrative thread to follow. It's a hodgepodge of random stories that barely connect. The strongest thread we're given involves one-time professional rugby player icon Max (Idris Elba) and his wife Emily (Gemma Arterton) and their marital struggles. Had the film been strictly about them, we might have gotten an interesting character drama. Max is famous because of what he could do on the field. In order to maintain that spotlight, he's become a charitable icon throwing lavish parties for good causes, but ultimately they're meant to keep him in the limelight. As a result of his need for adoration, he's cheating on his wife and has developed quite the set of chemical dependencies. At the same time, Emily is stepping out with another man and the pair must work through their differences.
That is enough story for 100 Streets. There didn't need to be two more randomly intertwined tangential stories to heap onto the show but writer Leon F. Butler and director Jim O'Hanlon squeeze more morose out of the film. For a side dish, we get to enjoy a married couple played by Charlie Creed-Miles and Kierston Wareing with difficulties having children and can't adopt. For dessert, we get to enjoy the exploits of a troubled young man played by the terrific Franz Drameh who gets some sage advice from Ken Stott. Somewhere in there, there's supposed to be some endearing life lesson about things eventually getting better, but in all honesty and fairness, movies like 100 Streets bring out the raging cynic in me and insults my naturally optimistic senses.
Part of the problem with 100 Streets and its siblings like Crash or Babel is they rest entirely on these down and depressing platitudes that are somehow supposed to reflect real everyday life. Being sad isn't a constant state of being, it's simply an emotional reaction to an event. Life isn't a parade of sad teary-eyed tragedies with few glimmers of hope to hold on to. You have ups, you have downs, and you have more days where you're in some sort of in-between state where you're getting through but things are generally okay. This sort of movie want's to paint a canvas of life with one dark depressing brush that rarely lets the sun come through. It's not a worldview that I subscribe to and have an abrasive reaction to people and films that try to convince me otherwise. If you haven't guessed by now, 100 Streets just wasn't my kind of movie.
To that point, I think it's the thinly interconnected style of storytelling as a whole that I don't like. It works in literature because the author can afford one thousand pages to tell a complete story. With a two hour film, that timeframe is sorely limited and the stories become tiresome. I don't like comedies that are spread out in this fashion as the jokes rarely land and I especially dislike dramas that try and teach some sort of life lesson through depressing vignettes. These sorts of movies especially irritate me because they feel like a waste of potential. As I said before, any one of the stories contained within 100 Streets could have possibly worked on their own with a little retooling. Each of these segments do offer up some terrific performances from professionals with incredible range and depth. Because we get so little time to get to know or even care about them beyond "their life is sad" they become cardboard figures standing in for real people.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
100 Streets arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Sony Pictures. Pressed onto a Region A BD-25 disc, the disc is housed in a standard sturdy snapper Blu-ray case with identical slipcover artwork. The disc loads directly to a static image main menu featuring traditional navigation options.
Shot digitally, the 2.39:1 1080p offers up a middling, heavily processed look that comes with a package of anomalies. While detail features are decent, they don't blow your hair back either. Part of the issue is the film's color grading, it looks like it was pushed a couple notches darker and hazier to evoke a mood and, as a result, close-ups and middles look decent, but wide shots tend to leave something to be desired. Colors don't exactly pop either as there is a feeling of forced restraint that keeps primaries in check. Daylight outdoor scenes do look lively and overall better than the indoor scenes. Black levels are alright, they do approach a level of inky black, but there is a lot more haze in some sequences that pull back that sense of depth. Some noise crops up from time to time but that's the worst of it. This is a purposeful and consistent presentation no doubt in keeping with the filmmaker's vision for the film, but it's not exactly a showstopper either.
With an English DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio mix, this is a very restrained, front/center affair. Dialogue does come through clean and clear without any issues to speak of. Sound effects are layered in there nicely to coincide with the score to help fill up the scene with some sense of atmosphere. That said, the film doesn't really go out of its way to provide an immersive experience. Even during busier scenes the surround channels rarely experience much of a workout and really keep to the front/side channels. While in keeping with the tone of the film, the differences between what would normally constitute a stereo mix and this surround mix are minimal.
A Look Inside 100 Streets (HD 14:05). This is your typical EPK style bonus feature that only briefly touches on the various aspects of the film with the cast and crew talking up their experiences on set.
100 Streets just wasn't for me. I try to give every film their due chance to suck me in and hold my attention, but these multi-story interwoven life lesson platitude festivals just don't do it for me. When they're dramatic, they're depressing. When they're comedic, they're trite and obnoxious. If you have to see this film, see it for the impressive work by this cast. Each of the performers are clearly giving it their all and they believe in the project. The final product just wasn't the right donut for my coffee. 100 Streets arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Sony Pictures with a middling A/V presentation and nothing really noteworthy in the bonus feature bracket. If you're going to see this movie, give it a rent first. I know some out there will find something rewarding from it but go in with expectations firmly in check.