200 Degrees Fails To Turn Up The Heat
Although 200 Degrees attempts to inject its formulaic “trapped in a room” plot with some twists at its conclusion, the film ultimately falls short of delivering a compelling conclusion to its plot. Stylistically, the film is pretty good and there’s some neat artistic shots and clever camera angles that help to give 200 Degrees some flair but ultimately, the story falls short and feels cliched – borrowing heavily from Saw throughout.
When Ryan (Eric Balfour) awakens and finds himself tied to a chair in the middle of a room, we’re greeted by a series of close-up shots to reveal he’s inside a hot, claustrophobic metal room. Accompanied by four large industrial heaters above his head, a steel door and a tiny spyglass window, its not long before a distorted voice comes over the intercom system making demands. Its a desperate situation for Ryan and as the temperature rises, so too do the stakes for Ryan.
For almost the entirety of the film, Ryan is the sole actor on screen and he does an impressive job of delivering his lines with enough conviction and desperation to make it believable that he is a man stuck inside this room. The same cannot be said for some of the supporting cast though whom we only hear via a smartphone throughout the film. Its here that one of the film’s biggest problems rears its ugly head and comes into centre view. The supporting cast come across as incredibly wooden and feel like people reading from cue cards. Its a shame too because Ryan’s desperate pleas while sweat pours down his face and his knuckle clenching bursts of anger help to give some much needed credibility to this title as Ryan carries out the demands of the mysterious voice on the intercom.
Of course, this is before raising questions about Ryan’s character motivations as he refuses to let the numerous people he phones the true extent of his situation. How the smartphone works or gets reception within this steel room is up for debate but even managing to suspend some belief for this and the rising temperature in the room that theoretically would have fried the phone, its still hard to understand just why Ryan doesn’t do things differently with a working phone in this situation.
Despite some slick camera work and a decent performance from Eric Balfour, 200 Degrees can’t get away from its obvious inspiration from Saw. Everything from the low pitched voice making demands, the frame-for-frame recollection of being kidnapped in his car and the grimy, claustrophobic room where he’s kept all feel like a case of deja vu. We’ve seen this done before but unlike in Saw, the inevitable twist ending when its revealed who’s doing this is neither clever nor is it very good. There’s also some questions raised about the moral ambiguity of Ryan by the end and its difficult to know whether to empathise with him or not.Spoilers aside, 200 Degrees is still a pretty fun ride and the mystery is enough to see you through to the end – even if it isn’t very original or clever in its delivery.
Overall though, its Eric Balfour that carries this title. His believable performance is compelling enough and the mystery well paced, that it’ll keep you guessing right up until the shaky ending that feels more disappointing than clever. There’s some nice camera work and editing though that help to bring some originality to this title that borrows heavily from Saw. While 200 Degrees isn’t the worst film you’re likely to see this year, its also not the best as this unoriginal Indie thriller fails to turn up the heat with its cliched premise.