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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.
Expanding further on its already wobbly and tedious premise, the third installment of the Sylvester Stallone-led testosterone-filled franchise is exactly what you would expect it to be; loud, senseless and utterly brainless.
Directed by Patrick Hughes, The Expendables 3 opens with Barney Ross (Stallone) and his dependable crew of rowdy mercenaries, Lee Christmas (Statham), Gunner (Lundgren), Toll Road (Couture) and Ceaser (Crews), rescuing and breaking Doctor Death – a.k.a “Doc” – (Snipes) out of prison.
After a series of unnecessary explosions, the team decides to take a quick trip to Somalia and take part in a CIA-operated mission to eliminate a black market arms dealer from the scene. However, the mission proves tricky when the group is confronted by Stonebanks (Gibson); a backbiting businessman - and an ex-member of the crew - who holds personal ties with Barney. The team ends up taking a huge and an unexpected blow and, after almost losing one of his members, Barney promises to track down Stonebanks – with the help of CIA Agent Drummer (Ford) – and seek revenge.
Wanting to keep his dear friends out of line of fire, Barney and recruitment specialist, Bonaparte (Grammer), begin putting together a much-younger team of mercenaries, which include the tech savvy, Thorn (Powell), no-nonsense tomboy, Luna (Rousey), weapons expert, Mars (Ortiz) and Smilee (Lutz). Not wanting to miss out on the action, Trench (Schwarzenegger) also joins the team. Their mission? Find Stonebanks and, if circumstances allow, bring him back alive.
Let’s be honest; the novelty of watching this peculiar but impressive assembly of 80’s and 90’s action superstars - all thrown together in one massive concoction of muscle, guns and testosterone – has worn off. While the first two films offered a bit more appeal – mainly thanks to the cast’s obvious sense of self-awareness at their very own absurd existence - The Expendables 3 chooses to go in another direction. Taking itself a little too seriously this time, it seems like the boys are running on fumes; the witty one-liners have been replaced by one too many explosions, the action scenes feel erratic, shaky and incoherent, the pacing is rather clumsy and the predictability levels have reached their all-time high.
The addition of Gibson and Banderas is probably the best aspect of the entire film; Gibson shows what real acting looks like and Banderas – as the unemployed warrior looking for a kill – infuses the story with the much-needed energy. As for the rest, it’s the same old story - old being the operative word – though there is still enough to keep fans happy.
Emerging from a lesser-known comic-book line, James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy – Marvel’s tenth, and possibly quirkiest, offering – proves to be a risk well taken.
Set entirely in the galactic immensity of outer space, Guardians of the Galaxy follows the story of Peter Quill (Pratt); a twenty-six-year-old Earthling who was abducted as a young boy and raised by The Ravegers – an alien gang of thieves led by the notorious, Yondu (Rooker).
Far away from home, Peter – a.k.a Star Lord – now roams the cosmos and soon comes across a special orb; a silver infinity stone that holds an incredible amount of power. Unfortunately, he’s not the only interested party and he is soon confronted by Korath (Hounsou); the right-hand man of one of the most villainous terrorists in the galaxy, Ronan (Pace), who wants to use the orb to overthrow a rival civilization run by Nova Prime (Close).
Intrigued by the high interest in his new discovery, Peter turns his back on Yondu, who sends assassin, Gamora (Saldana), to retrieve the orb.
He also soon attracts the attention of bounty hunters, Rocket (voiced by Cooper) – a sly raccoon warrior – and his best pal, talking tree-like human, Groot (voiced by Diesel).
After causing a public disturbance, Peter and his pursuers are soon put in prison and form a temporary bond, along with muscular inmate, Draz (Bautista), in order to break out and prevent the precious stone from falling into the wrong hands.
Written by James Gunn and Nicole Perlman, Guardians of the Galaxy is refreshingly off-beat, steadfast and full of character. Visually, Gunn paints his intergalactic backdrop with plenty of colour, however some of the CGI tends to feel a little overcooked and the action-scenes – although pretty entertaining– feel a little unrefined.
Pratt – whose character and performance has already drawn comparisons to Harrison Ford’s Indiana Jones – proves to be a solid and extremely likable lead, while Saldana uses her trademark femme fatale penchant to great use . However, it’s Cooper as the chatty and cheeky raccoon, Rocket, and Diesel as the human-tree, Groot, that steal the show, adding a whimsy rarely seen in modern comic-book film adaptations.
Without household comic-book names to inject a bit of weight into proceedings, this is a film that could have found itself in the annals of failed comic-book adaptations, alongside Marvel flops such as Daredevil, Elektra and Ghost Rider.
But, armed with a funky 70’s soundtrack, likable characters, a witty temperament and thrilling action, Guardians of the Galaxy has arrived at the perfect time for Marvel, who – despite huge box office earnings with Captain America, The Avengers et al – were in dire need of a fresh canvas.