Mark Webber - Elliot Brindle
Devon Graye - Michael Brindle
Tom Bower - Father Brindle
Rutina Wesley - Shelby
Ron Perlman - Detective Chilcoat
George Coe - Game Voice
Pruitt Taylor Vince - Vogler
Genre - Horror/Thriller
Running Time - 92 Minutes
Elliot Brindle (Mark Webber) has had a rough day. Instead of getting the promotion he was expecting from his boss (Richard Burgi), he’s fired from his job. Without a job, Elliot can’t support himself, let alone his pregnant fiancee Shelby (Rutina Wesley) who is trying to plan their wedding. He also can’t afford to support his mentally handicapped brother Michael (Devon Graye), which will lead him to unwillingly be institutionalized. Adding to the crap pile is the eviction of Elliot’s father (Tom Bower) from his retirement home, which is a huge problem since he’s a racist and Shelby is African-American.
Hitting rock bottom, Elliott receives a mysterious call (George Coe) that seems to know him and about his current situation. The caller tells him that all his problems will go away if he completes 13 tasks, all with increasing monetary value. The first few start off as playful and mildly mean to some, but as it continues, the tasks become more dangerous and a bit too extreme. A desperate Elliot plays the game, which makes him a target of Detective Chilcoat (Ron Perlman), leading to a conclusion that becomes way too personal and questions his morality.
- I knew nothing of 13 SINS before realizing it was expiring from Netflix Instant and watching it. It’s a Blumhouse Productions’ Americanized remake of a Thai film from 2006, 13: GAME OF DEATH and directed by Daniel Stamm, who directed 2010’s THE LAST EXORCISM. I wasn’t expecting much out of this movie, but I came out of it pleasantly surprised. So surprised in fact, that I want to check out the original Thai film. I’ve heard it’s a bit different, even though it hits most of the same notes. Usually a bad remake or reimagining turns me off from watching the source film, but this one did the exact opposite. If that’s not a plus in my book, I don’t know what is.
- I thought the premise, which is a mix of “The Most Dangerous Game” and SAW, was actually compelling and fun. Watching desperate people do really odd things for a certain goal, especially money or fame, tends to make an entertaining experience when mostly done right. Most of the games within the 13 tasks are pretty grounded in reality, each escalating in danger and questions ethics as they go along. I don’t want to give away what the tasks are, as it’s more fun to find out if/when you watch. But it’s a lot to fun to watch Elliot do the things he feels he has to do to support his family as the tasks get more malicious.
- I also liked that the tasks actually mattered in terms of moving the narrative along towards the twist ending. Sometimes you get a premise that’s just there to shock people without it really mattering to the actual story other than it being superficial. And while the premise is pretty implausible if you think about it, at least it leads to a conclusion that made sense in context of the premise. It adds a certain gravitas to the game Elliot is playing, connecting certain threads brought up prior to the ending and bringing them home altogether. I thought it was kind of neat that this game was not only effecting those in the present, but it also haunted some for many years. I thought the script was pretty clever in terms of that, giving us more answers while creating some questions that could be answered in a later film if anyone had wanted to, without leaving you hanging.
- The acting was very good in 13 SINS. Mark Webber was a strong lead, bringing a level of sympathy to Elliot while thinking he was a fool for thinking playing this game was a good idea. I enjoyed how he played the role, starting as playful and hopeful - but ending as a desperate and scared man. Ron Perlman isn’t in the film as much as one would like, but he’s always good in anything. This film is no exception. Pruitt Taylor Vince brings the creepy and mysterious, continuing his strong work as a character actor. Retina Wesley [Tara from True Blood] is good as Elliot’s confused fiancee. Devon Graye and Tom Bower were also very good as Elliot’s mentally challenged brother and angry father respectively. This was a really good cast that elevated the script.
- The gore effects were pretty good here. 13 SINS isn’t a gory film or anything, but I thought the handle of blood and violence was well done.
- One of the games involves Elliot having to steal an ostrich from a homeless man. There’s implausible, and then there’s WHAT THE HELL?? An ostrich? A homeless man? A homeless man with an ostrich? Is this a millennial thing? What does that even have to do with anything? It’s worse when we never even see how Elliot accomplishes this task. I guess it was supposed to be funny, but I just found it weird. It threw me off honestly.
- The direction by THE LAST EXORCISM director, Daniel Stamm, isn’t terrible or anything. But it’s not exactly fantastic either. It’s just there, never really bringing any tension or energy to the story. It’s a good looking film and it moves well, but there’s nothing really memorable about it. At times, Stamm seems confused as to whether he’s directing a horror film or a psychological thriller. Stamm is also ambitious at times, which is a good trait to have - but not if the budget or story doesn’t really allow it. The visual presentation is neither good or bad. But I thought a bit more energy and tension could have gone a long way to making 13 SINS stand out more.
- Seriously, where did that homeless guy get an ostrich and no one not notice?? What the fuck, really? I can’t even…
THE FINAL HOWL
13 SINS surprised me with how good it was. Never having seen the original Thai film that inspired this American remake, I came in with low expectations and came out enjoying the film for the most part. Solid acting, a clever premise, and a well told narrative with a twist ending that works make 13 SINS a psychological thriller worth looking for. Some of the plot points made no sense, or couldn’t even possibly happen regardless of the out-there premise. And the direction was uninspiring at times, but not totally terrible. So yeah, 13 SINS isn’t perfect, but it won’t make you go to cinema confession either to wash it all away.