So now, my fellow Americans, the unadventurous among you have the color, English-language, star-packed “13.” And not only is it written and directed by the same guy, Géla Babluani, but it’s also pretty good. I still think you should watch the original, too, although I know you won’t.
Sam Riley (you saw him top-lining the Joy Division biopic, “Control,” if you’ve seen him at all) stars as Vince, whose family is in dire financial straits, thanks to health troubles. Whereas the enterprising lad in the same boat in “The Entitled” opted for a good-ol’-fashioned kidnapping as his solution, Vince finds himself with the potential to make serious bank by participating in an underground sport more secretive than “Fight Club,” which we will not talk about.
As Michael Shannon (TV’s “Boardwalk Empire”) sits on a ladder to officiate amid an audience of über-wealthy gamblers, anonymous men referred to only by their numbered tees (Vince is 13) stand in a circle with a single-bullet-loaded revolver pointed at the head of the person in front of them. Once directed, they fire, and those left standing proceed to the next round, where the stakes get higher and another bullet is added to the guns’ chambers.
Among those playing the players are Mickey Rourke (“The Expendables”) and Ray Winstone (“The Departed”). Among the high rollers watching are Jason Statham (“Blitz“), Alexander Skarsgård (TV’s “True Blood“), rapper 50 Cent (“Set Up“) and veteran Ben Gazzara, who sadly has shrunken to appear like a ventriloquist’s dummy. Among the authorities attempting to break up this ring of death is David Zayas (TV’s “Dexter“).
Although “13” follows its predecessor closely, incredible tension remains. Knowing how it would end, I still tensed up each and every time a new round was readied. Sounds nerve-wracking and disturbing? It is, and it’s even grimmer than you picture.
Such bleakness typically doesn’t pay big at the box office, which must explain why this film — not excellent, but certainly effective enough to forgive its deficiencies — has been scuttled off to DVD and Blu-ray instead of blasting its way through theaters. Said Blu-ray’s lack of extra features is telling of the studio’s lack of faith. So again, why remake it? —Rod Lott