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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.
Previously titled, All Creatures Big and Small and Two by Two before that, Oops! Noah is Gone is the latest European animated-take on the familiar Bible tale which has decided to spin the story of Noah’s Ark and tell it through the eyes of the animals. Cute but, awfully unengaging, the film manages to offer a few laughs but, unfortunately, not enough to override its flimsy script and generally unexciting plot.
The story follows the escapades of Dave (Malloney) and his son, Finny (Magennis); a pair of brightly-coloured troll-like creatures called Nestrians, who are shocked to learn that they won’t be allowed on board the specially-designed ark that is to take all of the animals of the world to safety until the enormous flood passes.
In order to sneak past the security, the two decide to dress up and disguise themselves as members of Hazel (Flynn) and her daughter, Leah’s(Connolly) family; cat-like beings called the grymps. However, when the floodwaters begin to rise, Finny and his newly-found ‘sister’ soon find themselves separated from the big boat and join forces with a blob-like creature called, Obesey (Tylak) who will help the two youngsters find their way back to the arc while their parents, are doing everything in their power to convince the lion captain (voiced by Stanford) to go back and find their kids.
Written and directed by Toby Genkel and Sean McCormack, Oops! Noah is Gone isn’t the worst animated feature you’ll see; the bright colours and the zany pacing will keep the youngsters happy and there’s a certain level of cuteness behind its main characters that even adults can’t deny. However, it’s certainly not the best one out there, either. Standing as a cross-between Ice Age, Madagascar and Finding Nemo - minus the heart – Oops! Noah is Gone – a film with almost no mention of Noah - feels underdeveloped and annoyingly unfocused and while kids may have fun watching it unfold frantically on screen, there’s nothing to appeal to adults.
The jokes – of the poo-poo and pee-pee nature mostly – are aplenty and the quality of the CGI, although decent enough, don’t have that wow factor that is expected from an animated feature of 2015 which unfortunately, has to share its world with the ‘big boys of animation’ such as DreamWorks and Pixar.
Based on 2009 Oscar-winning Argentine film titled, El Secreto de sus Ojos, Billy Ray’s Hollywood adaptation of the original looked promising from the get-go thanks to its first-class cast. Nicole Kidman, Julia Roberts and Chiwetel Ejiofor are a formidable team and the plot – at least on paper – has enough gravitas to it to produce something solid. Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite work out that way.
As the man behind the screenplay to 2013’s Captain Phillips, Ray also penned the adaptation and opens proceedings in 2002 with FBI Agent, Ray Caston (Ejiofor), working together with friend and partner Jess Cobb (Roberts) in LA’s counter-terrorism taskforce one year after the events of 9/11. Together with Deputy DA Claire Sloan (Kidman) the task force is busy investigating an L.A-based mosque, looking for any possible criminal activity.
Everything soon changes when, during one of their surveillance routines, Raymond and Jess discover a murder victim near the mosque which turns out to be Jess’ teenage daughter. Thirteen years later, no one has been convicted of the murder, pushing Ray to take matters into his own hands after stumbling on new leads.
Jumping back and forth between 2002 and 2015, Secret in Their Eyes worksin terms of mood and setting; a film noir-like backdrop effectively conveys the grim topics. However, even though the film manages the moving timelines with a great deal of efficiency, there’s a formulaic and unimaginative approach to the basics of the plot which strips it of having any real impact. In addition, one too many subplots - including a romantic entanglement between Kidman and Ejiofor which never really sells - are introduced and instead of focusing on the working relationship and the bond between Ejiofor - a commendable lead - and Roberts - who is captivating as the grieving mother but, criminally underused - the film seemingly lends its focus on more trivial details.
Interesting but never as captivating as its synopsis suggests, Secret in Their Eyes is a decent dramatic thriller, but falls well short of the original – but then what remake ever does?