600 Miles – review #sydfilmfest

600 Miles does a number of things pretty well. It very effectively explores the absurd gun culture of North America. In this film I think you do get a sense of just how threatening and alarming hand guns and “hunting” rifles are. Even without ammunition. Every time we see someone handling a weapon you are aware of its weight, its mechanism and its potential lethality. The absurdity of gun laws in the US is also demonstrated when a youth buys some cartons of ammunition at a sports store, but is then asked for proof of age to purchase some cigarettes.

The plot is about illegal arms smuggling, and a law man (played well by Tim Roth) who tracks and investigates this, from the US to Mexico. Kristyan Ferrer as one of the young gun runners, captures the law man and then takes him across the border, where both need to rely on each other just to survive.

In Mexico we learn that almost nobody can be trusted, even members of your own family. This made me wonder why the film makers, who seemed mostly Mexican themselves, made all the Mexican roles seem so dark and sinister. Then I remembered that in the early scenes set back in Arizona, whilst the Americans were not all so obviously violent and corrupt, they were complicit in this whole problem and perhaps most at fault. Maybe we were meant to think that the whole world is black. There wasn’t much optimism in this film. Actually, I cannot recall any, even in the disjointed final scene during the credits.

The film only runs for 85 minutes, but the first hour is still pretty slow going and the plot is probably too thin to carry it well. There is a lot of gun violence in the last 25 minutes and then what I thought was a messy and weak ending. I realise that life isn’t always neatly concluded, but we go to the cinema to be entertained, educated, inspired and to escape reality, so I’d really prefer it if more film makers would question the vogue to leave so many loose threads or even the whole story up in the air before the credits start to roll. Sometimes it is as if they got bored with the production and just couldn’t be bothered.

Disturbing and depressing. 3/5

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