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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 follow up to Carlos Saldanha’s vibrant animated feature, Rio – a film that grossed over half a billion dollars at the box office - finds the Brazilian-born filmmaker returning to the pulsating streets of Rio Di Janeiro, before setting off into the wilderness of the Amazon.
Picking up some time after the end of the first film, Rio 2 finds the Blue Macaws, Blu (voiced by Eisenberg) and Jewel (Hathaway), happily married and living a carefree life while raising their three hatchlings, Carla (Crow), Bia (Stenberg) and Tiago (Gagnon), at the Blue Bird Sanctuary.
However, their children’s overly-domesticated habits begin to worry Jewel, who is fearful that her children are slowly losing touch with nature and what it means to be a bird. So, when she hears that there may be a flock of Blue Macaws living in the Amazon rainforest, the family decides to fly across for a vacation and a bit of an investigation.
Once there, not only does the family discover that there is more of their kind in the world, but that the flock is led by none other than Jewel’s long-lost father, Eduardo (Garcia). Jewel soon finds herself toying with the prospect of moving her family there for good, while Blu – who now must prove himself to Jewel’s apathetic and unconvinced father – isn’t too sure whether he’s ready to give up his life in Rio. Meanwhile, Blu’s lifelong nemesis, Nigel the Cockatoo (Clement), who is no longer able to fly, follows the family to the rainforest in search of revenge.
Eisenberg and Hathaway return to reprise their roles as the lovable Blu and Jewel and, although their shared chemistry can still be felt throughout, it seems that their second outing is not as charming as their first. Clement is hilarious as the grouchy Nigel, while all of the supporting characters, excluding Chenoweth’s hysterical performance as Gabi – a poisonous frog hopelessly in love with Nigel – aren’t given much of the spotlight, apart from indulging in a few impromptu sing-offs, including yet another cringe worthy rendition of Gloria Gaynor’s I Will Survive.
Just like the original, Rio 2 dazzles with its vibrant and bubbly tone; the opening scenes of the New Year’s Eve celebration on the bustling streets of Rio Di Janeiro are breathtaking and Saldanha, succeeds in adapting the alluring and captivating magic of Brazil.
The story, unfortunately, is not as engaging the second time around and Saldanha seems to have sent the story on a downward spiral the minute he decided to step out of Rio and move his flock of birds into the back woods of the Amazon rainforest.
There are still plenty of thrills and spills, but had it not been for the infectious Brazilian music and a handful of interesting characters, this would have been a complete washout.
David Ayer, the writer behind award-winning Training Day and 2012’s End of Watch, ventures into yet another shady underworld of dirty cops with his latest creation, Sabotage.
Set in Georgia, the film follows the story of an elite, undercover DEA Special Ops team of nonconformists; ‘Monster’ (Worthington), ‘Grinder’ (Manganiello), ‘Pyro’ (Martini), ‘Tripod’ (Vance), ‘Sugar’ (Howard), ‘Smoke’ (Schlegel) and finally, Lizzy (Enos), who are all led by their grizzled Special Agent, John Wharton – a.k.a Breacher – (Schwarzenegger).
While out on a mission raiding the mansion of a notorious drug cartel, the team comes across ten million dollars and decides to conceal it, with the plan of coming back for it later. However, when they return to collect their hidden treasure, the group discovers that the money is gone, and the guys quickly find themselves under investigation for the missing money.
Months later, the case is dropped and the group is quick to return to duty, but things are far from back to normal. The mystery behind the missing money reaches another level of obscurity as the members of the notorious team are killed off, one-by-one. The murders draw the attention of a homicide detective, Brentwood (Williams), who begins digging into the killings, whilst Breacher begins suspecting that the perpetrator might be one of his very own.
At times, Sabotage plays out like a classic mystery-thriller and has, rather hastily, been compared to Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None. Other than one seemingly long car chase and a few gun-fights, the story is surprisingly short on action, keeping its focus on the dynamics of the team, who, thanks to an overdose of bravado, are incredibly difficult to connect to, let alone root for.
Surprisingly, Schwarzenegger settles into his role quite nicely; his now ripe physical condition is suited to his character’s troubled ways, and although many would find it difficult to swallow the ex-governor as a rogue cop, he manages to sell his side of the story pretty well.
As part of the murky mis en scene, Ayer uses a type of violence more associated with a slasher flick and goes a little overboard – in other words, blood for the sake of blood. To top it off, the mystery, supposedly the driving force of the story, is sloppy and is met with one too many confusing twists and turns.
Bloody, vulgar and full of one too many shock moments, Sabotage is passable, but still an overly messy thriller, whose occasionally implausible plot twists suck out both the fun and the logic from its otherwise well-constructed tone.