‘100 Streets’: Film Review

We’ve been down these streets before.

Idris Elba and Gemma Arterton lead an ensemble drama as a well-to-do couple whose marriage is unraveling.

Within a square-mile section of London, the trajectories of characters from different social strata crisscross, circle one another and intersect in 100 Streets, an ensemble drama that puts a clumsy, soapy spin on a familiar template. Though there’s clearly a compassionate impulse behind Leon F. Butler’s class-conscious screenplay, it rapidly devolves into implausible melodrama. The intended snapshot of contemporary London instead feels manufactured and generic, never transcending, or digging beneath the prefab surface of, a wan collection of stock situations.

As a vehicle for Idris Elba, who also serves as a producer and music supervisor, the movie is barely adequate. Director Jim O'Hanlon, a TV vet, does what he can to stir the under-seasoned pot, moving among the story’s three central strands with increasing urgency. But this middling drama falls far short of the resonance for which it obviously aims.

As retired rugby star Max, Elba effortlessly captures the swagger of a wealthy celebrity and his unraveling. Max’s philandering has led to a separation from his wife, former actress Emily (Gemma Arterton), and he’s at loose ends without her and their two kids, making a public spectacle of himself with his drinking and drugging. Her tentative romantic involvement with an old friend, photographer Jake (Tom Cullen), grows more problematic for her as it becomes evident that he’s several leaps ahead of her on the emotional commitment scale. But whether or how any of this martial woe is sorted out could hardly feel less consequential.

The most effective element of the film — notwithstanding its up-from-the-gutters, art-saves-lives clichés — is the narrative thread involving small-time hood Kingsley (Franz Drameh) and middle-aged actor Terence (Ken Stott), a Zenful sort who walks the city alone, does tai chi by the Thames, and listens to Nina Simone on his ever-present headphones. Although Drameh is tasked with delivering the screenplay’s meaning-of-life voiceover musings, he’s charismatic and persuasive as a smart kid who can see beyond his mean-streets existence but doesn’t know how to break free of it. Through a chance encounter with Terence, who happens to be a former theater colleague of Emily’s — and so the circle tightens — he finds the encouragement he needs, and unlikely mates find common ground.

The middle-class piece of the triptych revolves around cabbie George (Charlie Creed-Miles) and his wife, Kathy (Kierston Wareing), a hard-working couple who face major setbacks in their plans to adopt a child. One reversal for them, relating to a matter from George’s past, has the smack of unfair class disparity, while the other serves all too clearly as one of the life-changing moments that Kingsley ponders in his street-philosopher smartphone recordings.

How the three stories connect is finally a matter of storytelling mechanics, nothing more. Questions of celebrity, marital discord, poverty, crime, child rearing and art don’t enhance or comment on one another; they simply coexist. Beyond the click of the pieces fitting together, O’Hanlon is unable to draw much from Butler’s screenplay, whose overt nod to Animal Kingdom doesn't serve the film well, instead providing a reminder of the kind of taut emotional complexity so sorely lacking here.

For the record, though the movie’s title is stylized as 100 Streets on all promotional material, it’s spelled out, as A Hundred Streets, on the print reviewed.

Distributor: Samuel Goldwyn Films
Production companies: Caudwell Films, One Square Mile, Umedia, West Fiction Films, CrossDay, What’s the Story, Green Door Pictures
Cast: Idris Elba, Gemma Arterton, Charlie Creed-Miles, Franz Drameh, Kierston Wareing, Tom Cullen, Ken Stott
Director: Jim O'Hanlon
Screenwriter: Leon F. Butler
Producers: Pippa Cross, Leon F. Butler, Idris Elba, Ros Hubbard
Executive producers: John Caudwell, Xavier Alcan, Thomas R. Atherton, Justin Bache, Janette Day, Mark Denney, Natasha Dwyer, Joe Hutchinson
Director of photography: Philipp Blaubach
Production designer: Ricky Eyres
Costume designer: Miss Molly
Editors: Mark Eckersley, Chris Gill
Composer: Paul Saunderson
Casting: Dan Hubbard

93 minutes