600 Miles review - Roth's understated brilliance shines through

600 Miles

Vincent Ralph reviews Tim Roth's new movie about gun-running in America.

Tim Roth is a great actor, but unfortunately some of the 55-year-old’s more recent roles have failed to showcase that.

Not so with 600 Miles – the debut feature from Gabriel Ripstein – which tells the tale of Roth’s federal agent Hank Harris and Kristyan Ferrer’s gun-runner Arnulfo Rubio as they are thrown together by circumstance and forced to work together to survive.

For a film about guns, this is not your average action movie; in fact the excitement is sparse, with Ripstein instead building the tension through long shots and even longer conversations. So if you are expecting the shoot-em-up suggested by the film’s promotional art you would be advised to look elsewhere.

This is a slow, sombre reflection on gun control in America and the limited actions of those tasked with tracking them.

The film opens with its best sequence, as Arnulfo and his friend travel from store to store buying up as many guns and as much ammunition as they can before trafficking it across the border with ease.

The audience is forced to play catch up, figuring out just what these kids are doing in a film that is all show and no tell.

When Arnulfo buys boxes of bullets unchallenged before being ID’d when he adds cigarettes to his shopping, the social comment is bold and unavoidable. Just as it is when we see Hank wandering through gun shows to do nothing more than track serial numbers and hope for the best.

Things take a turn for the worse when Hank does try to do something, and from there the film starts its slow but thoughtful journey to an end that will leave some viewers cold but will have others celebrating the bravery to show things as they really are.

600 Miles is released on DVD in the UK on 30 May 2016.