Directed by Stephen Sewell, Ian Sewell and Eric Sewell Starring Stephen Sewell, Matt Butt Butler, Nathan Ewert, Adrian Robinson, Cadie Fox, Ian Sewell and Eric Sewell Indie Film Review by Catherine Pearson
100 Miles From Hell follows the story of Steve (Stephen Sewell) and Virgil (Matt Butler), friends who turn to the drug trade with the help of Steve’s unreliable friend and inside man Darren (Adrian Robinson). When Darren arranges an exchange with a gang that goes horribly wrong, Steve and Virgil are left penniless and desperate. With nothing to lose, the pair decide to steal the drugs back and make their mark on the drug scene with huge repercussions.
Making a feature-length film, of 108 minutes no less, is no mean feat. This indie film is an ambitious project with a promising set up; Steve is laid out to be a bit of a ‘macho’ type in an amusing opening scene in which the less self-aware Darren defends the right to send text messages, a past time Steve asserts is ‘girly’. Sewell is comfortable and natural in front of the camera and there is some light-hearted banter and the encouraging indicators of soon to be well-rounded characters…and then, unfortunately, the rest of the film passes by.
You know when you’re talking to someone and they keep repeating a phrase? Maybe they always say ‘like’ or ‘you know’ and after a while it becomes the only thing you can focus on. Well, this film has that with the word “f***ing”. At first the ‘F word’ is used to express anger but within minutes it becomes a filler word that continues to be used in any pause for breath throughout the film. There is absolutely a place for swearing in cinema and careful use of foul language can be incredibly powerful. This, however, was gratuitous and lazy. In place of close ups of expressive acting, the camera continually catches its characters in mid-shots shouting “what the f***!” until the word doesn’t even sound real anymore.
All character development is lost in the quest to make 100 Miles From Hell as ‘adult’ and bloke-y as possible, starting with relentless swearing and moving swiftly on to what can only be described as ‘car porn’. At one point Virgil steps out of a car that we see screeching around various roads and exclaims to Steve, “That was f***ing fast as a motherf***er. S*** man…holy s*** that’s a f***ing muscle man”. I needn’t say much more, except that most sentences end with ‘man’ to make it painfully clear how manly they, indeed, are.
From one muscle to another, there is a scene in which Steve inexplicably lifts weights in a rare close-up specifically focused on his bicep. It’s macho to the point of near-homoeroticism but, as though only to assert how hetero he is, there is a girl sat opposite him who is wearing a tiny pair of shorts and is introduced gradually by the camera working up from her lower leg to her thighs. This is the only named female character in the film. I’m sure Michael Bay would be proud. Feminists, however…
The only thing missing from this ‘man film’ is, of course, fighting and whilst thought has clearly been put into the choreography of each clash, there is so much more that good camera work, sharp editing and soundtrack could have done to increase the impact of what can be very lengthy and flat action scenes.
100 Miles From Hell opened with potential and lost its way with one-dimensional characters whose narrative consisted primarily of having a swear-y, manly romp.