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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.
Trying to recapture the heart, wit and all-round musical grandeur of its 2012 predecessor, Pitch Perfect 2 sees actress-turned-filmmaker, Elizabeth Banks, sit in the director’s chair for her very first feature film. But as is so common with sequels, Banks’ directorial debut is a little off-key and not or as comically refined.
Following their success and three consecutive wins at the A Cappella U.S nationals, the Barden University Bellas are riding high. Led by Beca Mitchell (Kendrick) and Chloe Beale (Snow), the Bellas have been travelling the country on a victory tour, which also happens to include a very special stop at the Kennedy Center, where the group performs for President Obama and other a cappella enthusiasts.
However, things don’t go exactly to plan and when a rather unfortunate wardrobe malfunction involving Fat Amy (Wilson) labels the group as a national disgrace and the Bellas are mortified to learn that they will no longer be allowed to compete or admit any new members to their ensemble as a result.
Devastated by the outcome but equally determined to regain their former glory, the Bellas – who have been currently replaced by their rival team from Germany called Das Sound Machine on the victory tour – are now left with only one choice; win the global a cappella championship or be cast aside forever – dramatic gasp!
Delivering bigger and bolder musical numbers, Pitch Perfect 2 ticks the boxes on the musical entertainment front and the cleverly-constructed mash-ups seen in the previous film will leave any loyal Barden Bellas fan giddy with joy. However, the script isn’t without its problems, written by the 30 Rock’s Kay Cannon, the plot is unfocused and unpolished; everything feels a little overstated and the humour – especially those involving Das Sound Machine –
doesn’t seem to be as focused or as polished as before and although, there was plenty of reason given for the story’s comeback to the big screen, it feels a little overstated and the jokes – especially anything involving any Das Sound Machine member – are quite crude. Even the character of Fat Amy, who was the comedic heart of the original, becomes worn early on. Essentially, there seems to have been little or no character development and, generally, it's too much of the same.
It also doesn’t help that Kendrick’s role has been somewhat downsized in order to make room for Steinfeld who plays Emily Junk; an eager freshman hoping for a place in the squad.
If there’s one thing you can count on, it’s that Pitch Perfect 2 will still score big at the box-office and many will be able to turn a blind eye, and a deaf ear, to its inoffensive, but equally infuriating, flaws. Don’t be surprised if a Pitch Perfect 3 comes to fruition.
Having spent decades in the making, Mad Max: Fury Road finds seventy-year-old director, George Miller, returning to the vast and the beautifully deranged Australian wasteland and anyone lucky enough to be invited for the ride, will immediately recognize its undeniable prowess and action-classic qualities that have been missing from the world of cinema for quite some time now.
Set in the heart of a post-apocalyptic Australian wasteland, Fury Road is once again centred on former-cop-turned-drifter, Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy stepping in for Mel Gibson) who, after failing to stay ahead of his pursuers is caught by ‘The War Boys’; an obsessive and a gasoline-loving cult working for a ruthless warlord and ruler named Immortan Joe (Keays-Byrne) who controls everything, including the desert’s water supply.
Forced to serve as a human blood bank, Max soon crosses paths with Imperator Furiosa (Theron); a formidable war rig driver who, during a routine fuel run, decides to go off course in an attempt smuggle Joe’s most precious ‘breeders’, aka The Five Wives, out of captivity. However, Joe’s army is hot on her tail, leaving her with no choice but to befriend the rugged Road Warrior who might be the only person to help her out of the mess.
One of the most striking things about Fury Road – and there are plenty – is how unapologetic and relentless the film is from the very first minute. The story – storyboarded way before even a script was realised – is conceived as one long chase scene and the experience of watching the truly great George Miller at work – who has bravely refrained from using much CGI- is awfully difficult to put into words. Wonderfully bizarre, shamelessly violent and mind-blowingly exciting, the film spends very little time introducing us to the story or the characters; the action does all of the talking and, although some might have a little difficulty connecting, the film doesn’t rely on any gravity to its plot and doesn’t apologise for doing so.
Everything is in the visuals and the gorgeous cinematography – zesty orange by day and steely blue at night – is one of the most arresting things about the entire production. The same can be said for the performance of the forever-flawless Charlize Theron, is captivating in her performance as the fearless Furiosa. Sporting a shaved-head and a bionic arm, you can argue that it is, in fact, Theron who drives the plot forward – we won’t get into the popularised notion that the film is a ‘feminist masterpiece’ here, but Hardy’s intended minimal dialogue and man-of-action persona in embodying Max, leaves room for Furiosa to emerge as the hero of the piece.
There’s nothing complicated about Mad Max: Fury Road; but in the landscape of the modern action genre, few films of this kind have been met with such wide acclaim. After years of anticipation, Miller and co more than met expectations. Bravo.