Review: '100 Streets', Starring Idris Elba, Gemma Arterton, and Franz Drameh

What is life other than "long periods of waiting, broken up by brief moments of change"? It's not so much a question as it is a statement posed at the beginning of 100 Streets. The film is admirable in that it attempts to showcase various characters’ stories as they go through their individual lives. However, its reliance on stereotypes and the lack of more thorough character development pigeon-holes them while the narrative leaves a lot to be desired.

100 Streets follows three characters who come from different backgrounds and whose lives eventually intersect along the hundred streets of London. Kingsley (Franz Drameh) grew up in a low-income family with a single mother. In order to survive he gets involved in dealing drugs and gang violence. Secretly, he’s a writer and composer of lyrics detailing the hardships of his life. A meeting with a former theater director (Ken Scott) during community service gives him the potential to get out of his situation and opens doors to a future he never really thought possible.

Elsewhere, a former rugby captain named Max (Idris Elba), is navigating his life after the end of his sports career. He cheated on his wife, Emily (Gemma Arterton), with their kids’ nanny and is also a womanizing drug addict whose life is spiraling out of control. Emily, for her part, is lost after a wrench was thrown into her marriage. She seeks comfort in the arms of a former friend and lover (Tom Cullen). But things get complicated when she and Max attempt to get back together and her desire to go back to her acting roots blossoms again.

A lot of the plot threads in the film reach conclusions that are heavily melodramatic in order to prove a point. Many of them also feel far too convenient and are so blatant that it feels kind of like being hit over the head. The ensemble cast do well in embodying their characters and presenting them in such a way that brings understanding. However, their talents are too big for this film’s material. 100 Streets often feels aimless even though it knows it has a point to make. The roads it travels to get to the end are winding and filled with heartache, trouble, and revelations, but quite often parts of the story feel contrived and not fully formed.

Director Jim O’Hanlon and writer Leon F. Butler attempt to discuss social and racial backgrounds by creating three semi-interweaving stories, but it misses its mark. In a lot of ways, 100 Streets can be compared to Crash. They’re both very similar and attempt to tackle the same issues, but they both end up concluding what the self-aware already know: social and racial status plays a big part in where you might end up and how you’re treated by society as a whole. The film sets its sights on making a statement, but it’s misguided in its execution. The raps performed by Franz Drameh are the best parts of the film and often the most emotionally engaging and truly honest moments.   

Ultimately, 100 Streets has passion and is well-meaning, but the film’s plot often misfires and leaves a sense of emptiness in its wake. The characters are all multi-dimensional, but because none of them are ever the primary focus for too long, their development is hindered and the endings for all of their stories don’t feel earned. The film stays in the confines of its comfort zone of racial and social status stereotypes and uses these things to create drama that isn’t always compelling or meaningful in regards to its leading characters. The story lacks a sense of focus and the narrative is incomplete. It’s like the audience is stepping into someone’s life for a few minutes and judging it by having only seen a small piece of it. 100 Streets is an uneven film that has talented actors in the roles, but it doesn’t service that talent, or its story, to its peak potential.   
Rating: 2.5 out of 5