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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.
At first glance, Oliver Blackburn’s Kristy seems to be just another home-invasion thriller that does very little to elevate the standard tropes of the genre. However, thanks to masterfully-built, slow-burning tension, Kristy still delivers a few delightful frights.
Penned by Anthony Jaswinski, Kristy is set in Portland, Oregon and opens with a news report about a group of missing twenty-something year-old girls whose murdered bodies have been turning up across the country, with their deaths looking to be a result of a satanic ritual.
The story soon shifts its focus on Justine (Bennett); a young college student who gets stuck alone on campus during the Thanksgiving break. Unable to travel home for the holidays – mainly due to lack of finances – she decides to stay behind to hang out with roommate, Nicole (Ash), and use the peace and quiet to catch up on her studies.
After saying goodbye to boyfriend, Scott (Ransone) – who is reluctant of leaving her behind – she learns that Nicole too will leave to spend time with her family in Aspen, leaving Justine completely alone with a couple of security guards and a groundskeeper for company. After stepping off campus to get herself a well-deserved midnight snack, Justine runs into a mysterious hooded girl called Violet (Greene).
It’s not long before Justine learns that she has been followed back to the campus by Violet and her mask-wearing buddies who will do anything in their power to get their hands on another innocent victim.
Light on the gore, but easy on the eye, Oliver Blackburn’s Kristy is enriched with stunning visuals and clever camerawork that allows the audience to feel – and almost taste - the isolation and anxiety that surrounds the film’s heroine. The opening scenes – used to observe Justine’s newly-found solitude – create a fittingly claustrophobic atmosphere.
Forceful and compelling, Bennett proves to be a pretty decent choice for the lead and her transition from a young college girl into a survivor is built well. Greene, on the other hand, doesn’t fare quite as well; bland and expressionless, her contribution was pretty ineffective and, just like the rest of her gang, lacking the edge to make an impact as the villain of the story. The broody demeanour just doen't connect.
Kristy is filled with a sense of implausibility, but if you’re able to suspend your disbelief just a little more and overlook its flaws – the overpowering music cues and some rather predictable and cheesy horror traps, for example – you will find that Kristy is a decent entry to the increasingly saturated horror genre.
Taking on what’s probably one of the most implausible premises known to man, the latest offering from Training Day director, Antoine Fuqua, goes a little too far on bending the laws of reason and logic in the exceptionally contrived, cheesy and the remarkably violent, The Equalizer.
The story follows the life of one Robert McCall (Washington); a friendly, cautious and an unassuming middle-aged man who spends his days working the floors of a local Home-Mart, before returning home to a tidy one-bedroom apartment to eat his dinners alone. Suffering from a serious case of insomnia – and what appears to be a generous touch of OCD – Robert spends most of his evenings at a local diner, rearranging cutlery, reading books and enjoying the unobtrusive company of other restless souls.
On one such night, he befriends Teri (Moretz); a troubled young woman - and a frequent diner visitor – who earns her cash working as a high-end hooker for anunforgiving Russian pimp, Slavi (Munier). It’s obvious to Robert, who takes an instant liking to the young girl, that she has lost her way and encourages her to change her world and pursue her dreams of becoming a singer. Unfortunately, things don’t go so well for Teri, who - as Robert soon finds out - is landed in the hospital by her employers.
Unable to sit back and ignore, Robert decides to take matters into his own hands and soon finds his way to Slavi – and the rest of his crew - to buy Teri’s freedom from them. However, when the Russians decline, Robert has no choice but to take extreme measures; a move which quickly puts him in the crosshairs of the Russian mob.
The Equalizer is actually based, very loosely, on a little television show from the late eighties. However, the similarities stop at the character’s name; everything else has been changed and tailored to fit Washington’s trademark bad-ass passiveness, which just so happens to echo his character from the highly superior Man on Fire. Taking its time to develop, the first half of the film is dedicated to introducing us to the main character which is actually pretty engaging. However, the script loses its shape the minute the violence is unleashed. It's here that Fuqua, who also decides to channel in every single cliché from the book of revenge, crumbles and the idea of a man fighting – totally unaided - against the Russian mob seems like something that is probably better saved for the Die Hard franchise instead.
One thing is for certain, though, without Washington’s captivating and grounded presence, The Equalizer wouldn’t have amounted to very much.