DVD Review: 13

With a cast that includes Ray Winstone, Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, Michael Shannon, Mickey Rourke, Jason Statham and Alexander Skarsgard, it feels odd that upcoming thriller, 13, is going straight to DVD in the UK. Gela Babluani’s English language remake of his 2005 feature, 13 Tzameti, was released throughout Europe and Asia in 2010 – with increased budget and star power than the original.

After assuming the identity of a dead man, a naive young electrician (Sam Riley) finds himself thrust into a world of underground Russian Roulette. This unsettling game is filled with a mix of cold-hearted gamblers and desperate men, all aiming to be the last man standing and claim a huge jackpot.

Stylistically 13, is glossy, incredibly watchable entertainment. Gela Babluani directs with an unnerving sense of tension, capturing the dark, sweaty underworld of human Russian roulette where players stand in circles, each with a gun placed to the head of the person in front. These sequences feel completely unpredictable – with it never appearing clear which character will be wiped out – it is quite unnerving viewing.

Babluani’s screenplay also takes time to address each contestants back story from the financial issues facing Riley’s character Vince to Mickey Rourke’s Jefferson’s upheaval from a Mexican prison to compete. Getting to see a human side to these characters furthers the emotional impact that the taut roulette scenes actually have on the viewer. This can particularly be seen in the backstory of Jason Statham and Ray Winstone’s characters – with Statham’s cold gambler removing his fragile brother (Winstone) from a mental institute to compete.

Unfortunately, 13 tails off in its third act when we leave the world of underground roulette. The high-octane tension soon vanishes and the film limps to an anti-climactic ending. Had 13 spent more time possibly exploring other ‘sports’ in this criminal world or even of covered the fates of the likes of Mickey Rourke and Curtis Jackson’s characters – it may have provided a more vibrant, memorable conclusion.

Given the talented cast, there are a number of solid performances – with Babluani’s screenplay focussing on each actors strengths. Sam Riley’s competent leading turn as the naive electrician forced to fight for his survival is particularly endearing. However it is Michael Shannon’s supporting performance as the deranged ‘emcee’ of the game that proves to be the chief scene stealer in 13. Praise should also go to Winstone and Statham for the slightly more emotional performances that we traditionally see from them. As well as Curtis Jackson who proves to be a solid, charismatic addition to the cast.

13 is a well-made, likeable English-language debut from Babluani with the director excelling at capturing an unnerving world of underground gambling. Sadly a disappointing third act dents the otherwise solid 13.


Originally written for The People's Movies.

You can buy 13 on Amazon UK.

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