Tim Roth stars in this tale of an unlikely friendship between a gun runner (Kristyan Ferrer) and the ATF agent he holds hostage. Martin Carr takes a closer look…
Indifferently distant yet deeply personal, Gabriel Ripstein’s 600 Miles is a study of culture as much as character. And in Kristyan Ferrer he has found someone supremely natural, highly capable and in possession of a singular confidence. Between Ripstein and lead Tim Roth there is the moulding of a performance in action, which simultaneously taps into potential and grounds us to the point where film and documentary blur.
In truth without the time invested by Ripstein on character this quasi road movie would lack the necessary realism and solid foundation to make it function. Yet elements of the everyday meld together in a banal and mundane mix creating tension from thin air. As an observer you already know how things will play out, but it is the naturalism that Roth and Ferrer bring to proceedings which keep the interest. Violence is part of the lifestyle, guns a cultural necessity, while emotions are hidden beneath layers of needless posturing. This juxtaposition of emotional immaturity at odds with family responsibilities sits at the centre of 600 Miles providing that beating heart.
Ferrer's search for identity, both personal and sexual, add a fragility and depth to his character which lifts it out of stereotypical territory. And that need for acceptance so delicately played is a perfect counterpoint to Roth’s Hank Harris. Isolated, alone, grieving and defined by work, Ferrer comes onto his radar in an unspectacular fashion remaining there throughout. Any violence is economical, loud and adheres to the rule of cause and effect. And although the audience is clued in, 600 Miles still manages to deliver emotional heft, personal retribution and a sense of closure without feeling forced.
From the first frame Ripstein is loading his powder keg and setting a fuse. Simmering away beneath the surface is an untapped tension borne of circumstance and social necessity. Yet none of this is obvious until those closing minutes, played out over breakfast in kitchen sink soundbites. Such mundane domesticity drives home the point which radiates from every frame of 600 Miles. This is no more an early morning breakfast scene than the opening of Pulp Fiction. There is personal, social and cultural comment being passed here and the hammer blow comes not from the gunshots but lack of change.