Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

Sam Riley is Vince, a Middle American Ohio resident who could really use a couple of bucks. Sam Riley. Another British dude playing a Middle American white guy. Is there some sort of shortage of American white guys trying to be actors in Hollywood that I am unaware of? Is this why we have to keep importing white guys from Britain and Australia and New Zealand to play white guys from Ohio? If I was a white guy struggling to be an actor in Hollywood I’d be getting pissed right about now. I guess if I was a Black actor I’d be a little upset at the decidedly British actors Idris Elba and Chiwetal Ojiofor and all the Americans they get to play, but the American white guy actor is really up against it. It’s a crying shame I tell you.

Moving along, Vince’s old man is laid up in the hospital after a horrific car crash and the family has no insurance leading to them to mortgage their home. It’s looking bad for Vince and his family. Then, in a house Vince was doing some electrical work, he overheard a dude talking about a serious cash making opportunity. We don’t know what this opportunity is exactly but it involves a letter, a letter which Vince appropriates because as fate would have it this dude that he was doing the work for won’t need that letter anymore.

This letter consists of a set of cryptic instructions which has Vince traveling across Middle America to an undetermined location. What Vince doesn’t know is that the cops are following too, but the people in charge of whatever is going on are very careful and simply by following instructions those cops are in the wind.

Eventually Vince makes it to the place, a lovely English style mansion, but he still doesn’t know what this money making opportunity is. Judging from the armed guards, the expensive luxury cars in the parking area and the numerous money counting machines, whatever is going is looking mighty illegal to me.

Now’s here my dilemma. I didn’t find out exactly what the deal was until Vince found out what the deal was which gave the movie a heightened sense suspense, but if I had watched the trailer to this movie before I had seen ‘13’ or even looked at the DVD

cover, it pretty much gives it all way. Hell if I understand movie marketing. Nonetheless, the ‘deal’ is a game. And believe me when I tell you that this game just might be the stupidest game in the history of the planet earth. Good luck with that Vince.

Another problem I had with this movie was the editing decision to show, in the very first scene, the character of Vince and the character of Ronald (Ray Winstone) holding revolvers to each other’s head. Sure, we have no clue what this means right now with the next scene alerting us that the movie is backtracking a couple of weeks, but when the game starts we know exactly what that scene means. So we know that when the game starts that nothing is going to happen to Vince and that nothing is going to happen to Vince for a while. Yeah, we know that Sam Riley is the main character and there’s a damn good chance that whatever the game is he’s going to make it to the end of it, but wouldn’t it have been better to just keep a hint of some danger for our main character? I mean this is a remake of a foreign movie and main characters in foreign movies die off all the time. There’s also a scene in this movie where the handlers have to draw straws, so to speak, to see who gets into the final face off. Guess what? Those straws they are drawing have no drama to us because we already know who is going to be in the final face off thanks to this opening scene.

I guess the Powers That Be determined the strength of this movie would be watching people get shot in the head and more importantly in watching its tough guy cast at work, a cast that features the talents of Jason Stratham and Ray Winstone and Mickey Rourke and Curtis Jackson and Alexander Skarsgard… and the Powers That Be would be correct because the cast is pretty damn sweet and our tough guys do what they do.

I’m told that writer / director Gelia Babluani’s French original ‘13 Tzameti’ is far better than his North American remake because the original had more tension and more style, even though both movies are essentially the same. I’m thinking that this remake could’ve had as much tension, or at least come somewhere close to the original but for whatever reason the editing decisions were made to eliminate it, unnecessarily so, and replace it with… I don’t know… nice effects of people getting shot in the head? It’s too bad really because this version of ‘13’ looked as if it had the real potential to be along the lines of a mini classic instead of what it ended being, which was just a minor diversion until something else to watch comes along.

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