Remakes happen all the time. On occasion, those remakes will be helmed by the director of the original movie. Cecil B. DeMille first made "The Ten Commandments" as a silent film in 1923 before his more iconic version in 1956 with Charlton Heston. Alfred Hitchcock did the same with "The Man Who Knew Too Much," which he originally directed in 1934 then remade in 1956 as well. Both directors were more experienced and polished the second time around and the remakes have become more renowned than their predecessors. Those may be exceptions to the rule. More often than not, the remake is considered a lesser picture compared to the original. Michael Haneke's "Funny Games" is a prime example though I'm not a fan of either version. The Pang Brothers' "Bangkok Dangerous," which featured the unique concept of a hitman who was deaf. For the American remake starring Nicolas Cage, the lead was no longer deaf and the results were met with derision. This brings us to "13," a remake of "13 Tzameti," both of which were directed by Georgian-French filmmaker Géla Babluani.
Vince Ferro (Sam Riley) is an electrician whose family is drowning in debt. They are unable to make mortgage payments on their home and Vince's father requires expensive medical care. He overhears his employer discuss a lucrative opportunity after receiving a mysterious envelope. When said employer overdoses on heroin, Vince steals the letter and follows the byzantine instructions while unknowingly eluding the police.
Vince is taken to a ritzy mansion in the countryside and is shocked to learn he has become a participant (number 13) in a high stakes game of Russian roulette. The contestants are given a single bullet then stand in a circle and forced to aim a gun at the back of the next man's head. The survivors are given one more bullet with each successive round. The final round is a face to face duel between the last men standing. All the while, gangsters and wealthy ne'er do wells bet millions of dollars on who will live and die.
The majority of the competitors remain anonymous, but the narrative does delve into the back stories of two others. Mickey Rourke plays Jefferson, an American locked up in a Mexican prison after a heist who is shanghaied into the game. Ray Winstone is Ronald, who won last year's tournament and is checked out of a mental hospital by his brother, Jasper (Jason Statham).
Released in 2005, the original "13" was a minimalist noir shot in stark black and white. Babluani's film was a prescient parable about the wealthy elite exploiting the middle and lower classes. His remake is little more than empty imitation. For a movie where the stakes are life and death, "13" surprisingly lacks any tension. The original had a genuine sense of claustrophobia and you could almost smell the sweat on the brows of the players. Here, you just want the movie to hurry up and get on with it. Meanwhile, the histories of Jefferson and Ronald are dropped clumsily into the story. While Ronald and Jasper play relevant roles in the third act, Jefferson's didn't even need to be there.
"13" has a stellar cast in its favor. Sam Riley, who impressed many as doomed singer Ian Curtis in "Control," gives a strong performance as Vince. There are also solid turns from Rourke, Winston, Jason Statham, Michael Shannon, Ben Gazzara, Alexander Skarsgard, and David Zayas. The worst performance, however, comes from rapper Curtis "50 Cent' Jackson, who might want to spend some money on acting lessons. He is utterly unconvincing as Jefferson's handler.
UFC fans should look out for cameos by Don Frye and Forrest Griffin.
The video is presented in 1080p with an aspect ratio of 2.40:1. The transfer is well done with warm flesh tones and strong details. You can see every blemish on the face of each actor. Colors are vibrant with a clean picture.
The audio is presented in Dolby TrueHD 5.1. The sound is equally strong with attention paid to every click of the trigger and spin of the chambers. Dialogue is crisp and clear.
Despite an ensemble cast of name actors, "13" sat on the shelves for over a year before being released directly to video. "13" isn't so much a bad movie as it is a bland one where everyone involved seem to be going through the motions.