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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.
As far as buddy-comedies go, you can do a lot worse than Etan Cohen’s – not to be confused with the other Ethan of ‘Ethan & Joel Coen’ – partially entertaining and exceptionally raunchy Get Hard. Written by the director himself – along with the help of Jay Martel and Ian Roberts – the latest Ferrell & Hart coalition is promising of a few laughs, but, it’s definitely not for everyone.
The story is centered on a cheerfully unconcerned multimillionaire trader, James King (Ferrell) who is unexpectedly arrested for the suspicion of fraud and embezzlement. Outraged and willing to fight for his innocence, James soon finds out that his ‘type of people’ – you know the white-collar ones – are no longer protected by the judicial system and he is soon sentenced to ten years in a maximum security prison.
Scared and worried at what awaits him, James – who has been given thirty days to get his affairs in order - soon comes across Darnell Lewis (Hart); a straight and hard-working African-American who runs the car-cleaning service in the garage of James’ firm. Determined to get as much help as he can get, James turns to the only man he believes knows a thing or two about prison. However, what he doesn’t know is that Darnell – who is more than happy to accept the thirty-thousand-dollars payment – is just as naïve about life in prison as he is.
Get Hard is not original nor is it exceptionally funny. Its lack of creativity shows and its love for conventionality is at times a little hard to bear. However, in the midst of all the vulgarity it so shamelessly finds itself in – the prison-rape jokes as well as sexual assault humor is a little on the excessive side but plenty funny if you allow it to be - there is still enough room for laughter. The jokes – which involve a lot of ‘back-door’ talk and other seemingly offensive behavior which some viewers might find a little hard to sit-through – don’t always land where they’re supposed to but, when they do, the results are rewarding.
The one thing that keeps the movie from falling completely flat on its face is the genuine chemistry between the two leads who have managed to pour in some of their best work into the mix. Ferrell is well, Ferrell and his oblivious and not-as-annoying-as-you-may-think man-child works well against Hart’s snappiness and fast-moving energy and the duo, although, not the most easy-to-love characters, succeed in delivering the laughs.
It’s stupid, funny and rude. It works, almost.
Aimed primarily at young teens – or anyone else who thinks that watching Mean Girls is the next best thing since sliced bread - Kyle Newman’s latest entry comes in the form of an inexpertly created and awkwardly told teen-spy-high-school-comedy-drama, who’s painfully characterless and senseless ways are probably better off left unviewed.
Working from a script written by John D’Arco - previous writing experience includes a relatively successful romantic short story titled, A Grocery Story – Barely Lethal is centred on Megan Walsh (Steinfeld); a talented teenage special ops agent who was raised and trained in a special spy school for orphans called PRESCOTT. Taught and brought up by the devoted and no-nonsense trainer, Hardman (Jackson), Megan – along with her fellow orphans - including Heather (played by the Game of Thrones’ Sophie Turner), never really knew life outside the agency so, she spends most of her days dreaming of what it would be like to leave her current life behind and be a normal sixteen-year old American girl.
Luckily, she soon gets the chance to do just that and when a mission goes wrong and she is marked as MIA; seizing the opportunity, she quickly fakes her own death and enrols herself in high school as an exchange student. However, it turns out that life as a spy-assassin is a lot less complicated than a high-school kid, especially when a viral video exposes Megan to her arch-enemy - ruthless assassin Victoria Knox (Alba) - who is determined to wipe her out for good.
With a cast that includes the likes of Samuel L. Jackson, Jaime King, Jessica Alba and least but not least, Hailee Steinfeld – the talented actress who was nominated for an Oscar for her biting performance in 2010’s True Grit – it would only be natural for one to expect more from the proceedings. Unfortunately, Newman’s inexperience shows as Barely Lethal – a movie that tries to combine the teenage-spy genre with the appeal of a superficial high-school comedy– doesn’t seem to know how to get the best of both worlds, resulting in one disjointed, clichéd and forced piece of entertainment that lacks flavour and character.
The action – excluding Ms. Steinfeld’s superb physicality, combat skills and manoeuvres – is riddled with a cheap and shallow T.V quality-like special effects and not even the presence of someone like Mr. Sammy J – who to be fair has had some questionable roles in the past – can help keep it grounded. Everyone seems to be game, including Alba as the pitiless killer however, the story just isn’t strong, smart or witty enough to handle the pressure.
This is yet another movie that should have gone straight-to-DVD; it says its Barely Lethal, we say it’s barely watchable.