13 (2010) – Review

2 Stars

Gela Babluani’s remake of his first film, 13 Tzameti, for American audiences is a sometimes jarring and suspenseful thriller. Vince (Sam Riley) desperately needs cash to help out with his father’s illness. While working as an electrician he overhears the man of the house talking about making a lot of money after receiving an envelope in the mail. When the man overdoses Vince grabs the letter and assumes the dead man’s identity. He follows the instructions and finds himself caught up in a tournament of Russian roulette, where rich men bet on who will win and who will die. Now he knows too much and must play to the end. With every round more players are lost, can he survive and become the ultimate Russian roulette champion?

13 has a great cast, Alexander Skarsgard, Jason Statham, Mickey Rourke, Ray Winstone and 50 Cent. The problem is their characters aren’t big enough for those playing the roles, their screen-time is short and they’re reduced to simply faces in the crowd during the tournament set pieces. Mickey Rourke and 50 Cent do have some nice scenes together, although brief. I was surprised to see Ben Gazzara pop up as an evil rich dude. I had no idea he was still working at 80, and can still pull off a sleazy bad guy with ease.

Babluani doesn’t focus on his characters as much as the starkness of his frames, which makes some of the scenes jarring and suspenseful, but lacking a human connection. When the tournament first starts there’s a mood of creepiness and fear. The choice of not using a lot of music in the film adds to the suspense, especially in moments of tension as we are waiting for the players to pull their triggers. After the surprisingly anxiety ridden first round, the following games of chance became procedural as there’s absolutely no skill necessary to win this tournament. And watching people die and almost die a few times drills that into your head. Then at the hour in mark the tournament suddenly ends for most of the participants and continues on in a duel format. By this time we no longer care who wins, I was wishing that both players would kill each other. The ending of the film stretches a bit and tries to be more moralistic than it’s earned.

I haven’t seen the original, 13 Tzameti, but from what everyone’s saying, it’s a far superior film to 13. I bet having an unknown cast serves it better. Throwing together these name actors gave the impression that they would actually be doing something; instead everyone is a slave to the boring slow drum beat of the plot.

Director: Gela Babluani
Stars: Sam Riley, Jason Statham, Mickey Rourke

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