Gabriel Ripstein’s 600 Miles is a straight shooter unconcerned with excess narrative baggage, clocking in at 85 minutes with a minimal gun trafficking plot that relies on talented actors and raw cinematography to place this project as a worthy debut feature for the Mexican filmmaker. Veteran Tim Roth brings a solid performance to the film, but the real star is fledgling Kristyan Ferrer who plays the out-of-depth gun runner central to the plot.
There’s little fuss from the get-go as we are introduced to the on-edge Arnulfo Rubio (Ferrer) through his white-trash partner Carson (Harrison Thomas) casually shopping in one of America’s many gun stores. Right away, there’s the expectation that this film will focus on tackling the nation’s shockingly lax gun laws, but the message is succinct, Ripstein not bothering with any more than a few brief, masterful strokes to communicate the terrifying possibility that, for a youth, buying a gun is just as easy as buying a packet of cigarettes.
The cock-sure and obnoxious Carson is a loose cannon at all the wrong times and eventually leaves a window of opportunity open for an ATF Agent, Hank Harris (Roth), to spring an arrest on the two low-level runners he has been tracking via gun serial numbers. Things don’t go too smoothly for Harris’ arrest attempt and it ends with Carson escaping while Harris is left unconscious in the back of Rubio’s nondescript SUV.
It’s a simple set up and speeds us into a character-focused road movie, bringing the on-screen chemistry between Roth and Ferrer front and centre. Roth plays Hank with wisdom and solemnity, bringing a charming casualness to his character that is mirrored in Ripstein’s bare-bones repertoire of silent long shots and modest editing. Meanwhile, Ferrer portrays Rubio’s inner-conflict well, delicately moving towards a rapport with Harris the more the ATF agent smartly humanises himself to his captor. And the more Rubio warms up to Harris, the more his transparent toughness flips into fear and innocence.
600 miles and across the boarder into Mexico to finish his job, Rubio ingeniously thrusts both himself and Harris into a violent situation which allows Ripstein room the pick the pace up a bit. But even with the opportunity for action at his fingertips, Ripstein shows restraint and sustains a delicacy which sees this movie through to it’s off-beat and hilariously nonchalant conclusion. There’s purposely no sense of ceremony but there is a nice sense of timing, delivering some twists to sustain the high quality of the story.
Review Score: THREE AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Running time: 85 minutes
600 Miles screened as part of the Sydney Film Festival. More details can be found HERE