13 – Review

17 May

There are times when a foreign film maker shoots a film in their own language and injecting their culture into the plot, only to remake it for another country. Being an American, I notice quite a few foreign films and television shows get “Americanized” by either a production company or the original film maker. A notable example for me is Michael Haneke’s American version of Funny Games, which is a personal favorite of mine. In the instance of 13, Géla Babluani remade his 2005 Georgian-French film 13 Tzameti. How well the transfer goes is pretty up in the air, and in this case, it’s really iffy.

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Vince Ferro’s (Sam Riley) family is in some financial trouble. While all of the family works really hard to make ends meet, things just don’t seem to be looking any better in the near future. After overhearing a conversation about a quick way to make a lot of money, Vince jumps at the chance and winds up at a mysterious mansion in the middle of the forest. There are plenty of other people there, most of them wealthy. Among these people are Patrick Jefferson (Mickey Rourke), a convict who is forced into this game; Jimmy (Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson), Jefferson’s escort to the game; Jasper Bagges (Jason Statham) and his psychotic brother Ronald (Ray Winstone), who is competing. The game is simple, yet deadly. A group match of Russian Roulette. The last person left standing is the winner.

When I first heard of this movie, I began thinking of Deer Hunter, which is a movie about Vietnam and its psychological effects, but a main portion of the story involves games of Russian Roulette. 13 is very different, because the game is done in a more stylized and unrealistic manner. Deer Hunter, on the other hand, makes it as real as possible. The idea behind this movie is certainly intriguing, as one can observe with the praise the original 13 Tzameti received on the festival circuit. Now, just because I like the concept doesn’t mean that 13 is a good movie. In fact, it’s a pretty objectively bad movie with sloppy storytelling that really brings the entire film down.

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The biggest problem for me is its complete lack of any real character development, even though there are times where the film really does seem to be trying. The whole point of the film is for the viewer to root for Sam Riley’s character. Too bad I didn’t really get enough information on him to really care. On top of that, there are so many side characters thrown your way that you’d like to learn more about but never do. The whole section concerning Rourke’s character is completely pointless and the movie would have been better off if it wasn’t even in there. Then maybe more time could’ve been spent on Statham’s character and Riley’s character.

13 was just way too short to be effective. A film involving an underground crime ring that hold Russian Roulette tournaments is such a great vehicle for a ridiculous amount of suspense. Too bad the whole plot flies by before you even have a chance to get acclimated. On top of all that, the last 25ish minutes of the movie could have been used for more character development. Instead, we get a subplot that has such little relevance to what’s going on that I’m completely surprised it’s in the movie at all. The person who looked over this screenplay and approved it without revising it in a major way should be fired. Seriously, some of the worst character development, narrative structure, and plot points I have ever seen.

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I do have to give the movie some credit though. All of the performances were at the least solid. Sam Riley was acceptable, even though he was pretty uninteresting. Statham gives a nice performance alongside Winstone, both sharing good on screen chemistry. Michael Shannon has a small, but excellent part that, if I were to be casted, would want to play. Finally, Rourke and 50 Cent were ok, but seriously, they did NOT need to be in this movie. The suspense was also good when the actual roulette game was being played, and the very end was pretty awesome. If anything, I was mildly entertained, and it was a pretty easy movie to watch and shut down for an hour and a half.

Even though there is some good to be said about this movie, it is still not very good at all. In fact, it’s pretty bad. The unfortunate thing is that there was so much potential, and Babluani already proved himself with the original version of the story. If you need some background noise while you fold laundry, 13 may do the trick, especially since you hardly need to pay attention. Anything more than that, don’t waster your time.

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