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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.
Disappointingly cartoonish and almost unbearable to sit-through, Barry Sonnenfeld’s Nine Lives - the Wild, Wild West director sinks to a new low here - is just as dreadful as its trailer suggest. The story - shockingly credited to a total of five screenwriters - is lethargic and uninteresting with Sonnefeld’s inability to ignite some much-needed energy or thematic effects into the mix, clearl throughout the entire ordeal.
The story is centred on Tom Brand (Spacey); an outspoken and a hot-headed New York real estate kingpin who is currently devoting all of his hours to putting the finalising touches on the largest skyscraper the world has ever seen. Working alongside his son David (Amell), Tom is a workaholic and his long working hours tend to keep him away from spending more time with his second wife, Lara (Garner), and their daughter, Rebecca (Weissman).
In an attempt to make up for missing out on his daughter’s eleventh birthday, Tom decides to buy her a cat from a mysterious pet shop owner named Felix (Walken). Picking out Mr. Fuzzypants as the gift, things take a turn for the wacky when, Tom falls off a roof and through a glass wall, losing consciousness in the process. Miraculously, he survives the fall but, when he awakes, Tom realises he’s trapped inside the body of Mr. Fuzzypants.
It’s seemingly hard to get excited or find anything nice to say about this latest talking-pet-family comedy that, considering its poorly constructed script and even worse special effects - seventy percent of the movie was entirely computer generated - seems lazy and uninterested in telling any kind of story to begin with. What’s even more surprising about Nine Lives is that it’s produced by Luc Besson’s EuropaCorp - the production company behind hits like Taken, The Transporter and Lucy - making you wonder what possessed them to take on the story of a human trapped inside a body of a feline in the first place. It just doesn’t make sense.
It’s not entirely surprising, though, that Spacey was chosen to play Mr Fuzzypants, with the Oscar winner and House of Cards star’s alluring yet coldly indifferent voice standing in as the perfect match for the role of the cat. However, thanks to a long-series of bad jokes - which of course include plenty of poop gags - lame dialogue and a script that can’t seem to come into its own, Nine Lives has racked up enough points to be nominated as one of the worst films of 2016.
Mechanic: Resurrection, an unexpected sequel to 2011’s The Mechanic - a remake of the 1972 original which didn’t quite receive glowing reviews to begin with - offers the right kind of platform for Jason Statham’s already well established and very specific brand of action. However, while there are genuine moments of thrills to be had, Mechanic: Resurrection’s needlessly complicated and, at times, ridiculous storyline does get a little heavy-handed, turning the story into a relatively entertaining but helplessly cheesy action romp.
The story introduces us to Arthur Bishop (Statham); a retired contract killer who has decided to fall off the grid and live out a relatively quiet life in Brazil. However, his peaceful existence is soon disrupted when a group of associates, sent by his long-time enemy and prominent arms dealer Riah Craine (Hazeldine), threaten to uncover his location to the people who presume him dead unless he agrees to perform three hit jobs for Craine.
Managing to escape, Arthur flees to his home in Thailand where he soon comes across Gina (Alba), whom he manages to save from the hands of her abusive boyfriend, Frank (Quintavalle). From there, murmurings of a romance begin to bud, but not all is what it seems as Artur realises that Craine isn't too far away, even in Thailand.
Just how much you will enjoy this latest Statham-extravaganza solely depends on how much love you have for the man himself. As expected, the forty-nine-year-old star is reliable as ever and completely devoted to the action stunts required and even though there is nothing new on offer – we’ve seen him do this stuff before - he still manages to keep things interesting. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for his co-stars who are either given very little to do - we’re looking at you Ms. Alba - or don’t know how to handle the material given - see Hazeldine as the bland villain.
In terms of story itself, it takes a little bit time for the action to get rolling and while audiences will probably get a kick out of the various action set pieces and dangerous situations that Bishop finds himself in the plot, scripted by Phillip Shelby and Tony Mosher, boasts a certain degree of absurdity which might be difficult to swallow. Additionally, the romance between Statham and Alba feels forced and when things go awry, it’s difficult to become fully connected with the situation and the stakes.
All in all, Mechanic: Resurrection is a relatively fun, but by-the-numbers Statham action flick which is capable of offering a good time, but only if you go in knowing what to expect.