04 April 2012

Movies: 13

13 (2010) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0798817/


A young electrician, Vince, overhears a conversation at a job site where his employer is discussing receiving a letter that will get him a lot of money in a single day's work. As Vince's father is in the hospital with mounting care bills and the family has already remortgaged the house, Vince sees an opportunity to steal the letter and take the job himself.  When he follows the instructions he ends up as a contestant in an underground game gambled on by people who have millions of dollars to spend.
The game? A series of Russian-roulette rounds with contestants in a circle pointing their guns at the head of the contestant in front of them. At the signal, all pull their triggers. Survivors go to the next round.  If you survive to the end, you make a lot of cash for participating.

Yes, it may seem I spoiled it by giving up the Russian Roulette thing, but it doesn't reveal anything that isn't already revealed by the Netflix description or the TV guide description.

In some ways this is an intense thriller keeping you on edge wondering how everything is going to turn out. On the other hand it ends up somewhat predictable. But despite my plot predictions coming to pass I enjoyed the tension anyhow. Besides that bit of predictability, I'd venture that the worst of the film actually stems from its musical score. Most of the music just doesn't work with the film. The house where the game takes place reminded me of the big mansion in "Eyes Wide Shut", though I can't confirm that and could easily be misremembering as it's been years since I saw that movie that one time.

Cast-wise there are quite a lot of new faces, but there are also a few familiar ones as well. Especially Mickey Rourke and Jason Statham. We also are treated with Ben Gazzara, Michael Shannon, Ray Winstone, Alexander Skarsgard (True Blood's Eric Northman), David Zayas (Dexter's Batista), even 50 Cent. Even if you don't recognize the names you'll recognize the faces. The kid playing Vince, Sam Riley, I've not seen before but he did a good job of lookin terrified out of his mind when he realized just what sort of shit he got himself in to.
What sort of surprises me is I hadn't heard anything about this film before I chanced upon it, especially with the biggish-names in the supporting cast. Especially when I've been deliberately paying attention to movie trailers the past few years to keep my Netflix queue well stocked in to the future.

This film was critically panned mostly because it is a remake of the film "13 Tzameti", a French film by the same writer and director as this film. Yep - a remake by the guy that wrote and directed the original is considered unimaginative and worse. They complained it was the same film but more glossy and less gritty and less tension-y than the original. I haven't seen the original, so I dunno.

Despite my thoughts on the film's weaknesses it was entertaining in its dark way, suspenseful and engaging enough. Actually, I watched it twice. The first time because it just happened to be on but I missed the first 15 minutes, so I had the DVR record the next showing so the wife could watch it and I could see that first bit I missed. She was on the edge of her seat the whole time. I kept my mouth shut not wanting to spoil anything for her. Despite knowing what was going to happen I was able to enjoy the film the 2nd time around mostly because of her reactions.

It's an evil game, it's game organizers and gamblers must be bored to the point of psychopathy, so chalk it up as guilty devious entertainment. And, luckily, it isn't torture porn like the Saw or Hostel type films.

As it was so critically reviled as a remake I'm tempted to watch the original. Then again, I'm scared that by watching the remake I've spoiled that fresh-movie-smell for the original. I suppose if I do watch the original I'll just tack on some thoughts here.

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