Starring: Sam Riley, Jason Statham, Ray Winstone, Mickey Rourke, Curtis Jackson, David Zayas, Michael Shannon, Ben Gazzara, Alexander Skarsgard
Running Time: 86 minutes
Many directors have revisited their work over the years. Hitchcock Americanised and colourised his THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH and more recently Tim Burton is bringing his 1984 short FRANKENWEENIE to life via stop motion animation. But is it a good idea for a director to revisit his first film just five years later? Does he really have a different story to tell, or did he just not have the facilities available to him at the time which meant he had to make many compromises to his original vision? Gela Babluani once again takes on his tale of competitive Russian roulette that he originally told with the French film 13 TZAMETI (2005). You may be scratching your head at the maths since it has surely been 7 years since 2005. Well, that’s the second warning sign against this remake. It has actually sat on the shelf for 2 years now. But let’s not write it off just yet, this is the year of CABIN IN THE WOODS, which also sat on the shelf for an extended amount of time.
13 tells the story of a young man, Vince (Riley), who needs money for his family. Working as an electrician, he overhears cryptic talk about the chance to make a lot of money from the man he is working for. After his employee passes away, Vince decides to follow the clues and make the money himself. Unfortunately for him he is lead to a Russian roulette tournament where he is a contestant. Riley captures the spiralling sense of loss of control very well. His body language and speech change in an instant and we get a sense of the danger and fear he must be feeling. At least we would if it wasn’t some suspect pacing issues.
After having sat on the shelf for 2 years, it seems as though this film has been cut, chopped, and meddled with in such a way that it becomes very distracting. Big stars such as Rourke and Winstone strut into the first game with no introduction. They are given some quick back stories, but the plot is already underway. At a brisk 86 minutes, once the plot takes over we have no time for these characters which is such a shame. I wanted to know more about each of them as that would have made each round of Russian roulette more terrifying and engaging. The film also begins with a shot of the final round, and so we have an idea of where the film is going, which eradicates the tension we could be feeling.
For the time we do spend with characters we are well rewarded. Almost every role is taken up by a recognisable face. Michael Shannon shines as the emcee in charge of proceedings. His booming voice makes you believe each of his instructions would be followed. Winstone and Statham have a few moments to shine as brothers, with Winstone suffering from some mental condition. Rourke is a brand new character not found in the original, and as pointless as his scenes are, since they add nothing, he’s still a joy to watch. It’s just a shame that he has to play off 50 Cent, who can’t deliver a line convincingly at all.
I was never a big fan of the original, and I do consider this an improvement. It passed the time quickly and I couldn’t look away for a single second. But with a studio that was clearly not confident about the film, it just suffers. Even the DVD cover includes cars, helicopters, and an explosion of some kind, none of which are in the final film. If you go in expecting a film that is a remake, straight to DVD, and shelved for two years, I bet you’ll be pleasantly surprised.