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13: Ensemble Thriller Lacks Consistency
A desperate and naive young man named Vince (Riley) unwittingly assumes another man's identity only to be sucked into an underground world full of violence and money. Unaware of the consequences, Vince is quickly involved in a gambling ring like no other that he unwillingly becomes a huge part of. The only way out alive is to participate in a series of deadly Russian roulette games.
The idea of betting your life on a game where a gun is aimed at the back of your head is quite intense to say the least. But when the whole story of the film rotates around this concept alone, it actually becomes quite tedious. This remake of French film 13 Tzameti (2005) wavers from the intense to the dull quite consistently.
The storytelling develops nicely though, as we are dragged along with Vince as he is wrongfully mistaken for the assumed character, who he only paraded to be for a chance of making a quick buck. As he gets deeper and deeper into the game, he can't back out or quit, as the consequences of revealing himself could be just as deadly.
Though Riley turned in an acclaimed performance as Joy Division’s front-man Ian Curtis in biopic Control (2007), he is still relatively unknown, but as the lead he does a fine job in pulling you into his intense predicament. The all-action Statham is passable as one of the gamblers, but it’s the first time in a while we haven’t seen him knocking heads together, and he has to fall back on his acting ability alone. Rourke and Winstone are both simultaneously charismatic and brutal as always, while 50 Cent’s performance is over the top to say the least.
Georgian filmmaker Géla Babluani actually wrote and directed the original and the fact that he himself directed the American remake should have been a good omen. Unfortunately, Babluani has consciously made several changes to avoid simply reshooting the same film. It’s a no win situation; adapted screenplays are often criticised for not staying true to their source materials, but at the same time, they can be distorted by an unflinching loyalty.
In conclusion, 13 is a passable thriller, which seems to have lost much of the character that made the original film so popular. Hollywood has often sought to recreate European and Asian films in order to recreate their success. Very few succeed and unfortunately 13 doesn’t join that elite selection; it just doesn't come together as the exciting ensemble piece it could have been.
The latest low-budget Blumhouse Productions horror production, Jessabelle; a voodoo-worshipping Louisiana-bayou set thriller that is sadly, not as scary nor as ghostly as it wants itself to be.
Set in a misty Louisiana, Jessabelle follows Jessie (Snook); a woman dealing with the loss of her fiancé and unborn child to a car accident that has also put her in a wheelchair. With her life seemingly in ruins, Jessie is left with no choice but to move back into her family home with her estranged, alcoholic father, Leon (Andrews).
Uncertain of what the future holds, Jessie finds it difficult to adjust to her new life, not least because she has to spend her nights sleeping in her deceased mother’s bed. Soon after, though, her life takes on a new route of mystery when Jessie discovers a secret box – labelled Jessabelle, packed with seemingly worn-out VHS tapes. Filled with mysterious recordings of her mother’s tarot-reading to her unborn child – whom Jessie assumes is her – she finds comfort in seeing her mother, though Leon insists that she dispose of the tapes.
Intrigued by the cryptic messages and her father’s strange reaction to her findings, Jessie decides to dig deeper and along with old-friend, Preston (Webber).
The atmosphere and air around Jessabelle could be described as relatively eerie and the film maintains a degree of plausibility – at least more so than many of its peers. When you dig deeper to the heart of the story, however, the film comes up short and is rather timid for a horror film. This is made all the more obvious by the fact that the film almost insists on using every clichéd horror trick in the book.
Despite the plot’s lack of edge originality, Snook – previously seen in movies such as Sisters of War and Not Suitable for Children – manages to command the screen relatively well, while Webber was equally pleasing as Jessie’s Knight in Shining Armour.
Despite a reasonably promising build-up and a commendable attempt to bring a certain verity to a genre that requires more suspension of disbelief than most, the pay-off just isn't satisfying.
Unlike the first two films in the wildly popular cinematic adaptation of Suzanne Collins’ young-adult novels, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part I –the first instalment of a two-piece finale – is an underwhelming and slightly hollow watch.
Mockingjay Part I begins shortly after the end of Catching Fire, which saw Katniss Everdeen (Lawrence) pulled out and rescued from the games by game-maker, Plutarch Heavensbee (Hoffman), and mentor, Haymitch Abernathy (Harrelson).
Brought underground and aided by the District 13 rebels – led by President Alma Coin (Moore) – Katniss is asked to serve as the face of the growing revolt against President Snow and his tyranny over Panem. However, getting the young-rebel on board is not easy, as Katniss – whose beloved home district was levelled by Snow’s bombers in the previous instalment – is still trying to overcome the loss of her fellow District 12 champion, Peeta Mellark (Hutcherson), who has now become a prisoner of the Capitol.
Desperate to bring Peeta back to safety, Katniss soon agrees to become the ‘Mockingjay’ and operate as a symbol of hope and resistance for the people of Panem.
Just like Harry Potter and Twilight – other similarly structured franchises that have split the big finale into two or three parts – Mockingjay Part 1 feels abrupt. Granted, it’s unfair to judge a two-part film as, essentially, one arc is running through both, but a film released on its own can only be watched on its own and this first part spends its two-hour-plus running time setting up the pieces of the puzzle and building up the story with no payoff.
This is somewhat remedied by returning director Francis Lawrence’s focus on big battle scenes, though once again, there’s no real payoff, no punch-line.
One thing that won’t be put into question is another engaging, emotional and an overall solid performance from Oscar-winning actress, Jennifer Lawrence, who manages to keep the story kicking, regardless of its awkward pacing. Other returning faces, which included Hoffman, Harrelson, Hutcherson and Banks, are all equally reliable and, as the determined President Snow, Sutherland is once again a strong and a dependable villain.