600 Miles

600 Miles ★★★★

I was really enjoying 600 Millas. REALLY enjoying it. And I thought I had it pegged. The fact that a young man can buy cases of bullets and then is only asked for ID when he also requests two packets of cigarettes – oh yes, this was going to be a look at the damage caused by guns and youngsters making easy money from gun crime. I was wrong. It’s actually a thrilling road movie, for the most part, before delivering an ending that lifts it up from very good to great.

Tim Roth plays Hank Harris, an ATF agent who doesn’t come into the movie until the tail end of the first act. He’s just about to arrest a young man, Arnulfo (Kristyan Ferrer), when the situation takes a turn that leads to him being incapacitated and stashed in the car that Arnulfo uses for his gun runs. Not knowing quite what to do, Arnulfo decides to drive from America back over the border to Mexico. His elders will know what to do, surely.

Director Gabriel Ripstein has crafted a quality movie that manages to keep bettering itself with each unfolding chapter. The opening act is solid, and intriguing, but then things step up a gear when Roth and Ferrer end up together. There’s great character development, there are some real moments of tension, and the film could go anywhere. Without spoiling things, the third act amps things up even further, while moving once again into slightly different cinematic territory. And then there’s the final few minutes, as simple as they are brilliant. I already want to rewatch the film, and it just finished a couple of hours ago.

Ripstein also co-wrote the script with Issa Lopez, bouncing around between lines of English dialogue and lines of Spanish dialogue, and it’s a great template for the actors to work with. Ferrer may have to snivel once or twice too often, but he’s very believable in the role of a boy trying to act like the tough men he now works for. And Roth gives a performance so good that it will make you yearn for him to grab many more roles that actually deserve his talent.

Taking apart the separate elements, there’s plenty here that you’ve seen before. And I wouldn’t be surprised if many people experienced deja vu while watching. But stick with it and I guarantee (but not in a legally binding way) that you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

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