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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.
It should be pretty clear by now that if you’ve seen one Nicolas Sparks film - Notebook, The Last Song, A Walk to Remember - you’ve seen them all. Continuing in the trend of relentlessly sappy romantic melodramas, The Choice - adapted to the big screen by Bryan Sipe and directed by Ross Katz - will speak to those who are willing to listen. However, those who prefer their movies with a little less cheese might want to rethink their order.
Set in a small idyllic coastal town in North Carolina, the story is centred on Gabby Holland (Palmer); a medical student who has moved away from the chaotic city life for some peace and quiet while studying to become a doctor. Unfortunately, the peace she was looking for is not to be found as she has moved in next door to, Travis Shaw (Walker); a handsome veterinarian, who, along with his on-and-off girlfriend, Monica (Daddario), enjoys throwing loud parties and get-togethers, much to Gabby’s distaste.
At first, the two are at each other’s throats, with Gabby not withholding her obvious exasperation with the hunky neighbour. However, when their significant others - including Gabby’s boyfriend Ryan (Welling) - conveniently disappear from the picture for a few days, it’s not long before the two fall for one another.
Logic, common sense and reality, are nowhere to be found in this idyllic romantic setup, set along a sun-dappled coastline where each sunset is better than the next. For fans of this particular brand of romantic movie, what ‘connection’ the two leads manage to cultivate is satisfying enough. Unfortunately, for those who might be a little bit more grounded and connected to reality, this latest heavy serving of romantic sap just won’t do.
Sticking unremittingly to its formulaic mould, The Choice - boasting all of the worst romantic movie tropes under the sun - is the definition of derivativeness, featuring plenty of hand-holding, eye-gazing and corny romantic exchanges. The leads, although, pretty to look at – this is a Nicolas Sparks movie after all – are just not strong enough to carry the film through; Palmer’s overacting is bothersome at best, while Walker largely serves as the eye-candy of the piece.
All in all, those who enjoy the comfortable predictability that can be found in Nicolas Sparks stories, will definitely find something to like about the author’s eleventh book-to-screen adaptation. It’s everyone else that we’re worried about.
After a series of questionable career choices – After Earth, Focus anyone? – Will Smith returns to form in Peter Landesman’s biographical sport-drama, Concussion; an entertaining, but relatively safe, biopic.
Concussion tells the story of Nigerian-born forensic neuropathologist, Dr. Bennet Omalu (Smith), who in 2002 makes a startling medical discovery when the body of a former American football player, who’s reported erratic behaviour and mental instability led him to suicide, is brought in for an autopsy.
Omalu’s findings suggest that the persistent head trauma, which the players endure on daily basis out in the field, can cause permanent brain damage, which often leads to various mental disorders, including memory loss, anxiety and depression.
Naming the disorder CET - Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy – Omalu decides to publish his findings in order to educate the public on the potential dangers of the game. Unfortunately for him, the NFL isn’t too keen on what he has to say.
Based on a true story that rocked professional sports in America, the film starts off on an investigative and relatively intriguing note by opening with the struggles and then the death of Hall of Fame football star, Mike Webster (Morse). This is when we are introduced to Omalu, whose quiet and yet somewhat quirky demeanour - he talks to his corpses before beginning an autopsy - doesn’t sit all that well with his less traditional colleagues. Striking a good balance between highlighting Omalu’s journey as an African-born doctor in America and later his struggles when dealing with the NFL, Concussion ticks most of the boxes of an affective biopic; however, the film often swerves into the melodramatic, which diminishes the weightiness of the story at times.
In addition, the script doesn’t take risks in unravelling the story from its very core; it would have been nice to see a bit more dirt hiding underneath NFL’s impenetrable façade, for example, and the hurdle that the NFL presents to Omalu in publishing his findings never really seems challenging in any real way, leaving the film as a whole rather unrewarding.
Luckily, Smith, in one of his best performances in years, is there to remind all of what a passionate and empathetic actor that he can be, even if the romantic subplot never really pays off. Intriguing and thought-provoking, Concussion works, but thanks to its safe approach, it never really resonates as the important or a must-see film that it could have been.