Most people probably don't know that 13 Sins is a remake of a 2006 Thai movie called 13: Game of Death. And that's actually a great thing for both films.
We're not talking about a movie that's been around for decades and that has a brand recognition that's automatically going to bring in an audience. The reason Game of Death is being remade is because the original film has an excellent story that could actually stand to be retold in a new light. And considering I'm a huge fan who owns an imported French Blu-ray of the original film, trust me when I say 13 Sins is a superb remake.
Furthermore, what's great about 13 Sins as a remake is that there's utterly no requirement to know the original film even exists to appreciate this new one. All that's required of the audience is to buy into a story of a down-on-his-luck man who receives a phone call promising him increasingly large sums of money so long as he keeps completing a series of increasingly twisted challenges. If that sounds like the setup for a thriller that'd interest you, then hop on board. And if you are weary because you have seen 13: Game of Death and don't want to bother with another version of it, you should know that this new film diverges from the original in several smart, key ways that almost make this feel more like a sequel than a direct remake.
But enough of the remake talk. 13 Sins also stands on its own because it's got a fine grasp on dark humor to go along with its lead character's own awareness that everything he has done, or is about to do, is really insane if you take just a minute to think about it. But he can't take a minute, because he's racing against the clock to earn a chunk of money that would change his life forever. And once he does start to realize that maybe this isn't all worth it, Daniel Stamm's film introduces yet another element to spur him on until the whole thing spirals downward into a grim tragedy about how men and women and families ruin themselves in pursuit of a lifestyle they think they want but maybe don't even need.
The only disappointing side of 13 Sins is that downward spiral towards tragedy twists itself perhaps a few too many times to the point it threatens to become almost a farce. There's a fine line between throwing your main character to the sharks, and throwing him to sharks with freaking laser beams on their head, and this comes close to the latter. Thankfully Stamm's control of pacing and tone don't let things become unforgivably absurd (which is the same reason The Last Exorcism is such a great horror movie), but there may be a point when you think to yourself, "I was on board for A, B and C, but D and E were a bit much" is all.
Even if 13 Sins does skate a little too close to that line, though, it's still a fierce, nail-bitting film featuring solid performances from Mark Webber as the contestant, Rutina Wesley as his girlfriend caught in the whirlwind, and Ron Perlman as the grizzled cop trying to piece together his bizarre string of crimes. Daniel Stamm smartly blends them all together with this demented story to create an original (yes, original, even though it's a remake) and highly entertaining thriller that certainly rises toward the top of the stack of recent movies about the horrors people will go through in pursuit of a quick buck.
13 Sins recently had its world premiere at SXSW. It is On Demand now from Amazon, iTunes and the like. It will hit theaters on April 18, 2014.
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