Studio: Level 33 Entertainment
Director: Giorgio Serafini
Writer: Garry Charles
Producer: Scott Dolezal, Robert Willems, Eric Balfour
Stars: Eric Balfour, Joe Grisaffi, Kristin Cochell, LaDon Drummond
A stockbroker trapped in an industrial kiln must find a way to meet his captor’s ransom demand before being burned alive.
The night Ryan Hinds doesn’t remember has quickly become a day he will never forget. Ryan has no recollection of the who or the how, let alone the why, but when he wakes from unconsciousness, Ryan finds himself locked inside a large industrial kiln.
A disguised voice over a speaker presents a problematic proposition. Using nothing but the cellphone in his pocket, Ryan must come up with a one million dollar ransom. This would be a tall task under ordinary circumstances, even for this silvertongued stockbroker. But Ryan faces the additional pressure of the room temperature rising three degrees for every five minutes it takes to conjure the cash.
Who is his captor and what does he want besides money? Ryan will require every ounce of ingenuity as a slickster to unravel the mystery and escape, provided his blood doesn’t boil first.
I picture “200 Degrees” starting life as someone suggesting, “how can we do the same thing as the Ryan Reynolds thriller ‘Buried,’ but seem slightly different? I’ve got it! Instead of slowly suffocating in a coffin, our trapped hero will slowly be burned alive in a kiln!” Then a second person said, “okay, but let’s make sure the ending is loaded with so many batsh*t ridiculous reveals that it makes Key & Peele’s ‘Mexican Standoff’ sketch seem reasonably realistic by comparison.”
If the entire movie were as gleefully silly as its final scenes, it would be easy to smirk, forgive, and then grant “200 Degrees” a blessing for being “guilty pleasure” entertainment. Unfortunately, “200 Degrees” is blandly boring for the most part, operating on a premise too thin to sustain suspense for a full 90 minutes.
Setups like this regularly require a significant suspension of disbelief that someone so hellbent on revenge would concoct, prepare, and then execute an elaborate plot involving outrageous amounts of time, effort, and risk. Such an absurdity ends up acceptable in movies such as “Saw” however. Because with the way that world is presented from the beginning of its intricate mystery, the final curtain pull is no crazier than anything before that point. Every end is tied together in an imaginative manner befitting that film’s mood.
This movie demands leaving your logic function turned off for much longer to achieve a less satisfying result. “200 Degrees” asks the impossible by wanting its audience to swallow a notion that three tenuously connected people would be willing to invest in the same insane scheme. It’s ludicrous given the kind of grounding the film has. It’s also too little, too late to save a story that runs out of steam in its first act anyway.
“200 Degrees” doesn’t build a breadcrumb trail of intrigue. It follows a barren path leading to a loaf of exposition at the eleventh hour.
Few puzzle pieces are provided with which the audience can play along as amateur gumshoes. We’re given scraps of suspects and events leading up to Ryan’s capture, and just as little regarding who Ryan even is, making most of the movie a waiting game to have things explained instead of a genuine caper to be solved.
“200 Degrees” at least knows the limits of its loose ends. Garry Charles’ script virtually shouts, “I know, I know!” at every unexplained implausibility. Astounded at the information in one person’s possession, a character asks, “how could you have known that?” The person responds, “like I said, details.” This is dialogue engineered to acknowledge that the screenplay has the same question you do, yet no more of an answer.
The movie also makes no bones about identifying its obvious influences. Not only does naming the main character Ryan nod directly at “Buried,” but Ryan’s captor apparently purchased his voice distorter from the same villainy shop as Jigsaw.
“Buried” had the benefit of Ryan Reynolds’ charisma to carry momentum during downtime. Eric Balfour’s Ryan on the other hand, bears the stink of being a bad guy from the beginning. Without any sympathy in sight, what we see of Ryan is his skill at conducting verbal con games. A full 20-minute chunk is handed over to Ryan on the phone with investors, fabricating phony stories so they’ll float funds at him. Where is the excitement in this?
Balfour is fine overall. His voice-only costars are less convincing. One of the phone characters shouts about a similar predicament with all the energy of a sleeping pill. Another discusses the pain of a severed finger with the same tone used to order lunch at a Taco Bell drive-thru.
Even if the idea hadn’t been done before, and done better, “200 Degrees” wouldn’t have the legs to walk out of the trenches of home video filler. Tension is tame. Suspense equals stalling. And a climax that completely loses its mind can’t come close to saving the movie from succumbing to its own staleness.
Review Score: 40