January is the dumping ground for flawed, erratic films and pieces thereof, too minor and inconsequential to survive the competition of the previous year’s holiday blockbusters but seeking commercial release anyway to replace failures that didn’t work at the year-end box office or fulfill contractual obligations. And so we get a barrage of also-rans, many of which currently crowd movie marquees on their journey to cable TV.
100 STREETS ★★
Directed by: Jim O’Hanlon
A perfect example: 100 Streets, a benign ensemble drama from England that tells three loosely connected stories about people living within a single neighborhood in London. Idris Elba, who earned praise in the titular role of Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, plays Max, a retired rugby champion addicted to cocaine and women, whose interracial marriage is on the rocks since his wife Emily found him abusing the nanny. Emily, played by beautiful Gemma Arterton (Neil Jordan’s vampire thriller Byzantium), is a former actress who wants desperately to revive her career but, finding herself trapped in a dreary routine of shopping and taking care of their two children, seeks refuge in a passionless affair with an old college boyfriend. Their neighbor George (Charlie Creed-Miles), a taxi driver who sings and plays guitar in an open-mike club for amateurs, and his wife Kathy (Kierston Wareing) are anxious to adopt children of their own until George accidentally hits and kills a pedestrian and the guilt destroys his self-respect, ambition and hope. And finally, there is Kingsley (Franz Drameh), a teenage gang member and amateur drug dealer who is befriended by an elderly actor named Terrence (distinguished British character actor Ken Stott) while doing community service for a misdemeanor. Detecting a potential talent for writing in the young punk, the old man’s warm guidance is well on the way to diverting him from a life of street crime until he is beaten and stomped to death by hoodlums. When Kingsley finds out the culprits are members of his own gang, he decides to avenge his mentor’s murder with a gun and ends up a fugitive on the run.
Tentatively directed by Jim O’Hanlon from an uneven script by Leon Butler, 100 Streets (the meaningless title is merely the name of an irrelevant pop tune) is about ordinary people you might pass on the sidewalk without notice who are secretly battling the effects of alcohol, drug addiction, infidelity and crime, struggling to survive the cruel tricks life has in store while they’re making other plans. Each of the divergent characters is on the road to salvation when fate deals another blow. The actors are fine, but the material doesn’t give their talents much room to stretch. Neither the vignettes nor the lives of the people in them are interesting enough to sustain interest, and although the vague narrative threads that connect the dots don’t seem contrived, there’s still a soap opera feel to the movie which combines with a preposterous, over-the-top finale that adds up to a big let-down.