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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.
Sinking the already-shaky horror-genre deeper into further oblivion, Ouija – based on a popular spirit-summoning board-game from the 1890’s – is, unfortunately, nothing to get excited about.
Written and directed by Stiles White – along with the penning support of Juliet Snowden – the story is centred on best friends, Laine (Cooke) and Debbie (Henning), who, ever since they were young girls, loved to indulge in a childish and seemingly harmless play using the Ouija board.
Several years later, however, Laine is shocked to learn that Debbie has killed herself and even more surprised to learn that – after visiting her home – that there is evidence of Debbie playing with the Ouija board all by herself; a big no-no in the world of spirits and magic. In order to get to resolve the mystery surrounding her death, Laine calls upon the help of her sister, Sarah (Coto), friend, Trevor, (Kagasoff) and Debbie’s boyfriend, Pete (Smith), to play with the Ouija board and summon Debbie’s spirit.
However, things turn upside down when they accidentally end up summoning an evil spirit who, unlike Debbie, wishes to spread harm upon the group. Now, Laine, who brought everyone into this mess in the first place, needs to find a way to shut the portal - between earth and the life beyond - before it’s too late.
Although the idea of turning a popular board-game into a movie doesn’t sound all that ridiculous and the material seems generally interesting, there just isn’t enough imagination or character in Ouija to make it worthwhile. Lacking depth and character, the film relies a little bit too much on the jump-scare tactic and the lack of suspense and tension only adds to its weak attempt to create a frightening horror experience.
Adding salt to the wound, the characters are just as weak thanks to the poorly-scripted material. Cooke leads the way as the only character of note and the relatively new face won’t have harmed her future prospects. The rest of the cast, unfortunately, simply don’t register and ultimately fail to convey a single genuine emotion.
Ouija is tedious, unimaginative and seemingly uninterested in elaborating and expanding on its own source material.
Written and directed by David Ayer, Fury may come across as just another WWII story that has been told many times before, but there’s more to it than it meets the eye.
Set in April of 1945, the story centres on the final days of the war, just as the Allies and their forces have pushed the Germans back into their own land for one last fight. Having just returned to base from a long, drawn-out battle, Sgt. Don ‘Wardaddy’ Collier (Pitt) and his loyal ‘Sherman’ tank crew, including Boyd Swan (LaBeouf), Grady Travis (Bernthal) and Trini ‘Gordo’ Garcia (Pena), are mourn the death of their buddy, Red.
However, they're soon presented with his replacement in the form of Norman Ellison (Lerman); a young and a naïve clerk, who’s only been in the army for eight weeks and has never set foot on a battlefield, let alone operated heavy artillery. Naturally, the Sherman boys aren’t very keen on welcoming the fresh-faced soldier onboard.
Nevertheless, they all soon head onto the battleground to fight what is left of the Nazi forces and Norman’s inexperience, naivety and general apprehension of blood and war is soon put to the ultimate test.
There are over two hundred WWII Hollywood-made movies and although the genre has produced some truly memorable films over the years, the majority have failed to add anything new.
Enter David Ayer – the director and writer behind gems such as Training Day and End of Watch – who manages, ever so subtlety, to inject the story with plenty of essence. Extremely violent and grey, Fury – told mainly from within the confinement of a military tank – is explosive and full of anger – hence the title – however, it’s more peaceful and quieter moments that speak the loudest and the harshness of war and loss is felt throughout.
The onscreen chemistry between the loyal band of brothers keeps the film interesting. Pitt offers an engaging performance as a hard-worn sergeant, while LeBeouf, Bernthal and Pena round off the impressive cast with solid performances.
Similarly, Lerman, better known for his role in The Perks of Being a Wallflower, delivers the naivety and innocence of youth that the role demanded with aplomb.
While many will consider Fury to be of little significance in the large scope of war period dramas, it's very much the case that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. You won't see anything new here, but the film's heart and soul is largely owed to its central characters and a director who knows how to tell a story.