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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.
Careless and seemingly unable to find its own footing, the lack of heart and originality found in the latest reimagining of the ‘80s comic-book and film series franchise is disappointing and while there are moments of praise to consider, its shortcomings are a little difficult to disregard.
The streets of New York are terrorised by an underground criminal organization called the Foot Clan, commanded by an ominous figure known as Shredder (Masamune). At the heart of it all is the ambitious TV reporter, April O’Neil (Fox), who – despite the continuing objections from her clearly-besotted cameraman, Vernon (Arnett) – is looking to break out of reporting irrelevant news pieces and move on to much bigger stories.
Her timing, as it happens, couldn’t be better when, while out investigating a lead one night at the docks April witnesses members of the Foot Clan in a hard-hitting confrontation with a group of shadowy ninja-like figures. Determined to reveal the identities of these so-called vigilantes, April soon finds herself face-to-face with the talking and walking six-foot masked turtles, otherwise known as Leonardo (Ploszek), Raphael (Ritchson), Donatello (Howard) and Michelangelo (Fisher).
Raised in the City’s sewers by their rat-master, Splinter (Shalhoub), the four turtles have been training for years to stand up to Shredder and they are soon given that chance when they learn of the plans of a poisonous gas being released over the city.
There seems to be a lot of uncertainty and ambiguity in Jonathan Liebesman’s approach to the subject at hand and the challenge of reviving a thirty-year-old iconic franchise proves to be a rather tricky task for the Wrath of the Titans director. Written by an army of writers and produced by Michael Bay, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles suffers from an sloppy script , awkward pacing and, despite efforts give the very concept a little more depth the end-result feels shallow and undercooked.
Luckily, the action and the visual effects are pretty refined and while the surprisingly potent violence can be a little bit too much to bear, you can tell that a lot of time and effort went into the digital creation of the mutants themselves and the world around them.
Regrettably, the performances are just as unmemorable as the story itself; this applies to Fox most, who seems to be stuck with the same staggered expression the whole way through. The motion-capture translates quite satisfyingly, though the menacing presence of Shredder and the righteous aura of Splinter is never fully realised.
The film as a whole is polished but is short on subtlety and complexity, never finding the charm and nostalgia that initially triggered so much interest in the project.
Riddled with a long line of groundless and senseless ideas, As Above So Below – the latest entry to the exhausting found-footage horror sub-genre – is heavy on the mood, but short on everything else.
Centred on the myths behind the Catacombs of Paris, As Above So Below follows enthusiastic archaeology professor, Scarlett Marlowe (Weeks), who is desperately trying to get her hands on a magical rock, capable of turning metal into gold, called the Philosopher’s Stone.
Starting off in Iran, Scarlett soon finds herself on the streets of Paris, convinced that the stone – which she’s trying to retrieve in order to honour her late father’s wish – lies hidden somewhere in the Catacombs under Paris. Eager to begin her mission, Scarlett soon reaches out to old flame, George (Feldman), for help as well as documentarian, Benji (Hodge), and a random Parisian explorer, Papillion (Civil), who offers assistance with navigation.
Going into the Catacombs, the team soon begins its search for a long hidden passage that is supposed to lead them to the mythical stone. However, as they start going deeper underground, strange events begin to take place and if they are ever to reach their destination, the team will need to battle the darkness around them that seems to thicken with every step they take.
No matter how sound your idea may look on paper, the key is execution. In the case of this latest found-footage debacle, it is unfortunately, very poor indeed. The power of the mood, although relatively strong and effective, is weakened by the film’s crammed premise which sees plenty of random ideas thrown around without any explanation or point.
Luckily, the cast manages to weather the faults and offer a few relatively convincing performances. Weeks, as a woman who will stop at nothing until she gets what she wants, is persuasive; Mad Men’s Feldman keeps things relatively grounded, and Civil – a somewhat unknown French actor – offers just enough energy to keep things interesting.
However, it’s the writing that is at fault here. Chilling, but not enough to make your blood run cold, As Above So Below is terribly confusing, contrived and awfully claustrophobic and if it wasn’t for its somewhat underwhelming – and seemingly abrupt – finale, things might have turned out differently for this part Tomb Raider part Blair Witch bag of fables and scares.