Thursday, June 08, 2017

200 Degrees is Only Lukewarm: A Film Review

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
*full disclosure: an online screener of this film was provided by the distributor. Level 33 Entertainment is an advertiser on this site.

Director: Giorgio Serafini.

Writer: Garry Charles.

Cast: Eric Balfour, LaDon Drummond, Kristin Cochell, Joe Grisaffi and Larry Wade Carrell.

200 Degrees is a small indie production. From Smoke Hammer Media and West Arts, this film centrally stars Eric Balfour (Backcountry, 2014). He plays the ultra deceitful Ryan Hinds. Trapped in an industrial kiln, there is no way out for Ryan, unless he can face the truth. But, this very unloveable character never integrates, nor lives the truth, in any way. 200 Degrees is very much inspired by James Wan's Saw (2004), especially in setting and plot design. Almost the entire film is housed in one, small room. As well, 200 Degrees is in every way a minimalist production. Almost all interactions take place on a phone, or through a speaker. The entire film rests with Balfour, much like a one man stageplay. Finally, there is one film element that stands out, when it should not - the sound. Whispering is never a great way to deliver dialogue. As it is, 200 Degrees is very difficult to recommend to most film fans.

Ryan is, on the surface, a stock broker. Very much a con man, Ryan makes his money by deceiving others. His clients are not the only ones being deceived. His wife, Anna (Kristin Cochell), is also being conned, in a way that will not be revealed here. So, one, off-screen character forces Ryan to face the truth. He is housed in an industrial kiln and tasked with transferring a million dollars of his money into the villain's account. But, who is really the villain, here? Ryan has almost no redeemable characteristics. Late in the film, he does not even flinch when some of his supposed loved ones die. This viewer was rooting for his demise and so were several other characters, on-screen.

This critic noticed a number of similarities to another film, Saw. This earlier, ground-breaking film was mostly set within a dreary, single setting. This is also true for 200 Degrees. Though, in 200 Degrees, Ryan is situated under the world's largest heat lamps. As well, both films put characters in difficult situations. A character within Saw, Adam (Leigh Whannell), is tasked with killing another, in cold blood. Within 200 Degrees, Ryan must steal from every client he has ever known, or die from heat exhaustion. But, he has already likely stolen from them before. Why are they so willing to part with their money, again? There is no easy way out of this situation, for Ryan. Finally, the villains are motivated to test characters, in both films. In Saw, a character's desire to live is tested. While this is also true in 200 Degrees, the villain here also wants lead Ryan back to a more moral way of being. And of course, characters in Saw and 200 Degrees are trapped by an off-screen antagonist (or what appears to be off-screen in Saw's case). The characters are much like a puppet on a string, being manipulated from afar. Saw continues to be one of the most influential films, in the horror genre.

200 Degrees is very much a scaled down production. In every way, 200 Degrees is a minimalist production. Acts I and II only have one character on-screen, Ryan. His only interactions, with the outside world, include phone calls, or dialogues with the black hat, via an intercom. Acting has been reduced to one actor and viewer's may not enjoy the simplicity of this approach. As has been mentioned already, there is only one setting, here. The camera only moves outside the central setting, once, near the end of the film. Meanwhile, a large portion of the film has been shot inside the kiln. These four walls do grow tiresome, over time. There are only a limited number of ways for Ryan to interact with the set. Returning to characters, there are only three secondary characters, in the film and they only show up for a scene or two. Almost the entire film relies on: one character, one setting and minimal interaction. This approach to storytelling will not hold everyone's attention, nor interest.

Though, the major critique this viewer had of 200 Degrees involved the sound. One of the main sound engineers has only one production credit, to his name. And, competency is often developed through repetition and experience, rarely through talent. In Act III, the sound design started to devolve significantly. For instance, Ryan speaks into his phone, or to the villain with a whisper. Whispering is never a great way to deliver lines, to the audience; the lines cannot be heard. If viewers seek this film out, you will need to have the volume controls at hand. Still, it only gets worse from here. The finale, which should be tense, is almost laughable due to the ADR, or voice synching. All of the characters had to re-record their dialogue and it is obvious. In an interior setting, how hard can it be to set up a boom mic and hit record?Also, the sound design here, in the third act, is awkward. The sound of footsteps is very poorly done. Something went wrong in Act III, regarding sound and this almost sinks the film, entirely.

200 Degrees has just released through Video-on-demand and horror, or thriller may or may not want to take a look. There are a few tense scenes within the film. But, the set-up and who the villain is can be discerned fairly easily. There are so few characters here, that hiding Ryan's torturer is very difficult. Almost the entire film is a minimalist production and complex scenes are relegated to the finale. Here, the sound design is off-kilter and the dubbing weakens the film's believability. Making money in the indie film world must be challenging as more and more of these smaller, one setting productions come out through home entertainment platforms. Still, it is hard to give positive marks to a film, which cannot capture dialogue, especially dialogue recorded within interior settings. Most dishearteningly, 200 Degrees does not even offer an honourable protagonist. Ryan is in almost every aspect a villain as almost every word he speaks is a lie. Still, some viewers may enjoy seeing this con man near roasted alive, like the chicken he is.

Overall: 6.25 out of 10.

*released on June 6th, via Video-on-demand.

**this title was previously titled Burn, back in 2016.

A trailer for the film: A 200 Degrees' Trailer on 28DLA

Another thriller starring Eric Balfour:

Subscribe to 28 Days Later: An Analysis 28 Days Later Analysis Email Subscription