Idris Elba and Gemma Arterton impress in a London set ensemble drama of varying quality
Shortly after playing a space villain in Star Trek Beyond, Idris Elba acts as a grounding influence in TV-schooled director Jim O'Hanlon's hit-and-miss metropolitan mosaic. If first-time writer Leon Butler doesn't always avoid the contrivances that can scupper these kinds of films, nor does he force the connections between three sets of struggling Londoners. But his and O'Hanlon's redirection of themes, ideas and musical montages mapped out by Paul Haggis's Crash, Paul Thomas Anderson's Magnolia, Michael Winterbottom's Wonderland and similar ensemble dramas satisfies most when the leads get room to breathe.
Elba lunges gamely into the emotional scrum as rugby star and father Max, whose philandering has splintered his marriage to Gemma Arterton's Emily. Called on to appear charismatic, contrite, slobby, sensitive, athletic and blitzed on cocaine in quick succession, Elba never drops the ball; likewise, Arterton conveys Emily's pride and pain persuasively.
Their neighbours don't let the street down, either. Charlie Creed-Miles charms as a crooning cabbie whose plans to adopt with his wife (Kierston Wareing) are knocked sideways by a nasty traffic accident. And committed break-out work comes from Attack the Block's Franz Drameh as a conflicted drug-dealer with acting ambitions and a vulnerable streak.
This kind of casting ballast proves vital when the plot strands fray. The logistics of character juggling threatens to break the film's back when Creed-Miles vanishes off screen for a stretch, as 100 Streets gets sidelined by melodramatic twists involving muggings, murders and – most ludicrous of all – a siege scenario. Whether these detours into the overwrought betray confidence jitters or not, the film's gentler moments – Creed-Miles's moving encounter with a grieving man, and Drameh bonding with Ken Stott's old thesp – are where its heart lies. When Butler and O'Hanlon put faith in their characters they earn ours in return.
Selected release from Fri 11 Nov.