13 Sins Review

Posted: April 22, 2014 in Reviews, Thriller
Tags: , , , , , ,

1397895448_33There are two things working against 13 Sins, the new thriller in which a man becomes an unwitting contestant on a game show that compels him to engage in increasingly antisocial behavior. The first is the film’s own weaknesses, beginning with uneven performances, implausible assumptions, and threadbare plot points. The second disadvantage – and the one over which the filmmakers had no control – is the recent wide release of Cheap Thrills, a far superior entry in the “What would you be willing to do for a buck?” genre.

The premise in both films is similar. Find a man so down on his luck and simultaneously facing a financial situation so dire that he would be willing to consider any proposition to make himself whole. Cheap Thrills works because it throws the main character by chance into a familiar situation – the bar bet – and than gradually and plausibly escalates the rewards and consequences. By contrast, 13 Sins director and screenwriter Daniel Stamm goes all in from the opening scene, by revealing too much immediately and by robbing the hero of free will too early.

Elliot (Mark Webber) is days away from his wedding, and a few months away from his first child, when he is fired and then humiliated by his boss. He then proceeds to his father’s house, where he is humiliated and informed that his racist dad is being evicted and will be coming to live with him and his African-American fiancé. And naturally, he is also supporting his mentally challenged brother who will now be shipped back to an institution because Elliot no longer has insurance, and that’s nothing if not humiliating for both him and his brother, who turns out to be more Rain Coat Man than Rain Man.

Elliot’s luck appears to change when he receives a call on his cell phone, telling him he’s been selected to participate in a unique game show in which he will be financially rewarded each time he completes one of 13 tasks. Swat a fly, get a thousand bucks. Eat the fly, and he gets enough to pay off his fiancé’s credit card. If Elliot fails to complete a task or quits, he forfeits everything. And that’s one big problem right there because no matter how desperate an individual, every viewer will realize that there is always at least one thing that no person is willing to do. At that point, the audience is simply waiting for the film to get to the one thing.

There are some nice touches. An ostrich makes a great cameo. Another scene serves as an homage to Weekend at Bernie’s (and who ever thought that film would continued to be referenced as much as it is). And there’s a mass decapitation scene that can be considered a milestone in mass decapitation scenes. That’s not even mentioning the extra squishy sound effect employed when someone is shot in the head.

On the other hand, there is sloppiness and waste in this adaptation of the Thai film, 13: Game of Death. Elliot ends up on a wanted poster for “Theft of Stolen Goods.” He is also meant to sing The Internationale anthem during one of his 13 challenges, which is inexplicably drowned out on the soundtrack by a pointless Hip Hop track. The waste in the film is the setting of New Orleans, which is used for nothing more than a couple of exterior shots, and the casting of Ron Perlman as a police detective investigating the day’s mayhem. Perlman’s presence just draws attention to the inadequacy of Webber in the lead role. You can’t help but ask, “What would Hellboy do?”

Two stars.

(And Cheap Thrills? That’s a four star must-see.)


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