Once again I find myself reviewing a movie that is, in fact, a remake of something I have yet to see (13 Tzameti). The fact that the remake is directed and written by the same man who directed and wrote the original version, Gela Babluani, bodes well but I’m sorry that I can’t give a recommendation or warning to fans of the 2005 film.
The plot is all about a young man (Vince, played by Sam Riley) who desperately needs money. His father is in hospital, treatment is expensive and his family are about to sell their house to cover hospital bills. Thankfully, or maybe not so thankfully, fate steps in when he finds out that someone has a scheme to make a lot of money very quickly. That someone then finds himself unable to proceed, to put it mildly, and Vince sees an opportunity to take a chance. Little does he realise just what a chance he is taking as he assumes the name of the other man and starts off on a journey that will take him to an illegal gambling den where the main attraction of the day is Russian roulette. The players are numbered and Vince gets to be number 13. Will he be unlucky?
As horrific as it is, Russian roulette is also the ultimate tense gamble. It’s pure luck and the price for losing is your life. It’s nothing I’d ever want to see in real life but in cinematic terms it’s harder to think of a simpler set up that is more tense. Going into the situation with young Vince and finding out just how the people around him deal with their nerves and how the callous spectators do their best to win huge piles of money is a very effective method. Vince is an easy guy to like but if the movie wants to throw a curveball then everything could turn upside down in the click of a trigger.
Greg Pruss is on hand this time to help tweak the screenplay but I think that it’s safe to keep the spotlight and praise for Babluani, who came up with the whole premise and works hard to weave an interesting supporting cast of characters around the lead.
Speaking of that cast, Sam Riley is believable as Vince, initially desperate and soon a nervous wreck as he realises just what he has to do to, literally, survive each round. Jason Statham has a prominent role but this is NOT a Statham movie (he’s not required to slap people around and grumble wisecracks this time) and Ray Winstone is very good as Statham’s brother. Mickey Rourke has a small, but enjoyable, role and Curtis Jackson (better known to some folks as 50 Cent or, as I like to call him, 20 Pence) does well with his limited screentime. Michael Shannon is superb as the “ringmaster” while Alexander Skarsgard makes a better impression with his performance here than he has in the past few attempts to promote him in bigger titles.
The pacing was spot on, the direction was solid and everything seemed in order but I’ll be absolutely honest – everything else faded into the background when I was caught up in that most pivotal moment, the time when the hammer comes down and the gun either clicks on an empty chamber or fires. The rest of the film is just fine, and there are some great little moments breaking up the main gambling events, but the fact that I was SO glued to the screen when contestants were due to find out if they were lucky or not means that it was successful in what it set out to do with that simple set up.
13 should be available to rent or buy from a store near you as of Monday 8th October. If you’re lucky.
DIRECTOR: GELA BABLUANI
WRITER: GELA BABLUANI, GREG PRUSS
STARS: SAM RILEY, JASON STATHAM, RAY WINSTONE, CURTIS JACKSON, MICKEY ROURKE, MICHAEL SHANNON, ALEXANDER SKARSGARD
RUNTIME: 97 MINS APPROX