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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.
Taking its cues from David Memet's provocative play, Sexual Perversity in Chicago, About Last Night is a remake of a 1986 Edward Zwick film. Being the latest romantic comedy claiming to take a deeper looks at the age-old subjects of love, sex and relationships, it holds just enough charm and humour to make it an admirable addition to cinema-cheese.
Set on the sunny-streets of L.A, the film follows two best friends; businessman Danny (Ealy) and his motor-mouth best friend, Bernie (Hart). Like many other men their age, the duo’s measure of success lays in how many women they hook up with and they naturally have no interest in looking for or finding ‘the one’.
However, things soon change for them both when Bernie meets the sexy and equally feisty, Joan (Hall), while his best-bud strikes up an immediate connection with Joan's beautiful roommate, Debbie (Bryant).
Time passes by and each couple have shared a fair amount of ups and downs in their respective relationships; Bernie and Joan's hot-headed union is on rocky grounds, while Danny and Debbie – who have moved from a one-night stand status to a full-blown live-in relationship – are questioning whether their relationship will weather the storm of uncertainty and returning exes.
The cast is well-fitted to this type of comedy and, thanks to their on-screen presence, they manage to convey their day-to-day hardships in a way the audiences can easily relate to. Vibrant and infectious, Hart – recently seen alongside Ice Cube in the buddy-cop comedy, Ride Along – puts his over-the-top energy to good use, whilst the dynamics shared with Hall is the movie's key draw. Meanwhile, Ealy's and Bryant's more sedate alliance - told through a gushy, overly-sentimental eye for romance – is satisfying as the meat of the plot, but not as exciting.
Directed by Hot Tub Machine's Steve Pink, the film’s premise is fairly familiar; boy-meets-girl, they share one night of steamy passion, fall in love, move in, before the inevitable question "am I ready for this?" reels its ugly head. However, despite its somewhat conventional and unsurprising setup, the script - written by Bachelorette's Leslye Headland – keeps things relatively light, humorous and, at times, even emotionally stirring.
About Last Night manages to put its own spin of realism and good-natured humour on the forever-entertaining, battle-of-the-sexes; forgettable yet extremely engaging, the dialogue, along with the cast's biting chemistry could easily set this as the best date-movie of the year, thus far.
Zack Snyder wowed audiences back in 2006 with his super-slick fictionalised retelling of the infamous Battle of Thermopylae in 300. Now, the long-awaited sequel is here; bloodthirsty and unforgiving, it's safe to say that 300: Rise of an Empire will not disappoint fans of the first film.
Serving as both a sequel and a prequel, 300: Rise of an Empire takes its attention away from the Spartans and their army of noble men, this time putting its focus on the origins of their enemies and the wider ramifications of the events from the first film. The story is centred on Athenian General, Themistocles (Stapleton); a fearless warrior who, during the Battle of Marathon, fatally injured King Darius I (Naor), the great leader of Persia and father of God-King-to-be Xerxes (Santoro).
Ignited with anger and an incredible desire to spill Grecian blood, Greek-born Persian warrior, Artemisia (Green) plans to transform Prince Xerxes from a fearful Prince into a Persian God-King, to ultimately guide their people into war with the Greeks.
Ten years later, Xerxes is ready to send his troops into battle, concurrently engaging King Leonidas and his 300 Spartan men in the overwhelming Battle of Thermopylae, as well as General Themistocles, who goes on to battle Artemisia's naval army at sea. The fate of Greece lies entirely with Themistocles, whose army is once again devastatingly outnumbered, but whose determination and courage go a long way in their fight for freedom.
Santoro returns to reprise his role as the towering giant that is Xerxes and although the character’s backstory is one of the most engaging elements of the film, the Brazilian actor fails to offer any depth to the complex kind. As the lawful Queen Gorgo, Headey retains a very royal pride intensity as the wife of the fallen Leonidas, while Stapleton – as the film’s lead – delivers just enough to score a passing grade, but ultimately lacks the charm and presence of Gerard Butler.
On the other hand, adding Green into the picture is arguably one of best decisions that the filmmakers could have made; as the trouble-brewing Artemisia, she steals the show.
Sticking to the same visual aesthetic, 300: Rise of an Empire is just as absorbing as its predecessor, with director Noam Murro given the freedom to paint on a much larger – and bloodier – canvas.
Although the thrust and energy of 300 seems like an awfully difficult feature to replicate, there are still plenty of adrenaline-pumping moments behind the blood-stained battles to make 300: Rise of an Empire an enjoyable follow-up.