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Marina Antunes [DVD News 12.13.11] thriller crime

Year: 2010
Director: Géla Babluani
Writers: Géla Babluani, Greg Pruss
IMDB: link
Amazon: link
Trailer: link
Review by: Marina Antunes
Rating: 4 out of 10

When it was announced that Géla Babluani's 13 Tzameti was being remade, my initial reaction was one of contempt. I generally dislike the idea of English language remakes of international films but when, in the same breath, it was noted that Babluani would be stepping behind the camera to direct the remake, I took a step back. Here was an opportunity for a director to retell his story for a different audience, with an amazing cast of talents and a larger budget. It had the trappings of a good thing in the making and with the success of other English language adaptations (Michael Haneke with Funny Games, John Erick Dowdle's Quarantine and Matt Reeves' Let Me In (review)), it looked like the setup would deliver a fantastic thriller. And then the remake disappeared off the face of the earth for what seemed like forever.

It was years before we saw a trailer and after the film's short festival run, 13 disappeared again before re-appearing earlier this year when its DVD/Blu-ray release was announced. So what happened? How did a movie with so much potential and such an amazing cast get buried with a year end, near-direct to DVD release? The answer is simple: it's not a very good movie.

I'm not quite sure how this got so buggered up but 13 is a clear example of a remake that doesn't work. Not only does it fail to do anything new or interesting to the original story, it doesn't even manage to successfully use the elements it shares with the original.

The story follows Vince, a young electrician with a very sick father requiring yet another operation the family can't afford. The family home is already up for sale but this new procedure is increasing the pressure on the already strapped family. While out finishing a job, Vince overhears a conversation about an opportunity to make a lot of money. The next thing you know, the owner of the house he's working in is dead from an overdose, Vince has found the envelope and is headed on a mysterious journey that he hopes will yield a load of money, or at least enough to pay for his father's medical bills.

The trip leads him far into the suburbs where he's dropped off in the middle of nowhere and picked up by someone in the know and driven even further out to an old mansion. Here he's introduced to his handlers who are unhappy to see that he's not the guy they were expecting but with few options, he's added to the game. And the game: Russian roulette. The players are sequestered into a small room and handed a gun. To start, they're each given a bullet. With their guns loaded and raised, the cylinder is turned. When instructed, the guns are pointed, cocked and when the light goes on, the trigger pulled. The dead are dragged away and after a short reprise, the remainder of the men are brought back in, given two bullets and the same procedure followed. This goes on until only two men remain; our hero Vince and Ronald, a multiple winner whose luck is about to run out.

As per the original, the story leading up to the game is ham-fisted, but as similar as it is to the original, the changes are enough to raise the cheese factor (of course Vince is doing this for his family rather than himself) and though there are some other side stories, a chase by the police, a strained relationship between Ronald (Ray Winstone) and his brother Jasper (Jason Statham), this is mostly about the game and by round three, you're already hoping it comes to an end soon.

Sam Riley, who was so good in Control, continues down the road of delivering decent performances in terrible films and he's accompanied here by a huge cast of talented performers, including Alexander Skarsgård, David Zayas, Mickey Rourke and Winstone, none of whom manage any emotion beyond slight interest. The one standout is Michael Shannon who admittedly, also has the film's flashiest role as the game master. He has a fantastic monologue in which he explains how the game is played but as good as that is, it still lacks the tension of the original film's sequence (seen in this trailer and as effective now as the first time I saw it).

I realize 13 is at a disadvantage since it's a remake of an indie gem but being steered by the same creative force, you'd expect it to either improve on the original or work and fail in the same places but the reality of the matter is that 13 is inferior in every respect. For the most part the music, including the music on the film's Blu-ray menu, is at odds with the movie itself (much of the score feels like it belongs in an epic romance), the performances are mediocre at best and the film lacks tension, during the crucial first round as well as throughout.

It's disappointing that 13 doesn't even manage to live up to its predecessor and more so because I can't even recommend it as a valiant effort; there's a feeling of complacency which is infuriating. At least we'll always have the original (which you can order here).

13 is available on DVD and Blu-ray combo pack on Tuesday, December 13th.

Extras: Making of featurette.

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street (6 years ago) Reply

once again marina, you've saved my life..

another 2 wasted hours

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