Saturday, May 3, 2014

13 Sins

Elliot is a nice guy. A devoted boyfriend, brother, son and soon-to-be father, swamped by student loan bills and suddenly out of work, when a mysterious phone call (that manages its own ring tone somehow) offers him fifty bucks if he'll swat a fly.

Discovering the money instantly dropped into his account, Elliot is intrigued. Then disgusted as he offered substantially more money to eat the fly.

Then the voice tells him he's part of a game show: For each task he completes, he will receive increasingly larger sums of money, up to a total of $6.2 million dollars.

Well, sure, who wouldn't agree to such a sweet deal?

For one, anyone who'd ever been to the movies, who knows that the "challenges" are going to not just get harder, but increasingly humiliating and/or dangerous and morally reprehensible.

Elliot, however, has never been to the movies so he signs up. And once you've signed up, there's no way out, of course. Soon he's looking not just at losing all the money he's supposedly won, but also losing his life.

This is a tight little thriller, well done, and reasonably fun given a kind of mean-ness that generally underlies these kinds of scripts, and a couple of twists that are especially mean. It's brisk, short and there's a fair amount of suspense though, obviously, you have to increasingly suspend your disbelief, since the game "hosts" need to have a supernatural control over the world and environment in order for the whole thing to play out.

Kind of like The Box, if you remember that one, though this is considerably more successful artistically.

Not commercially, sadly. I'd say it's going to be overlooked but it already has been: It had a tiny release and we only saw it because it got one late showing at our local theater.

Confident direction from Daniel Stamm (The Last Exorcism), sensitive performances from Mark Weber (Scott Pilgrim vs. The World) and Devon Graye ("Dexter") as Weber's handicapped brother. Tom Bower plays their despicable father with a palpable venom. Rutina Wesley plays the warm, down-to-earth girlfriend.

Ron Perlman, the Beast his-own-self, plays a detective who suspects something larger is afoot.

The Boy approved which means that the movie won him over enough to allow him to suspend disbelief.

Remake of Thai movie: 13: Game of Death.

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