Monday, 11 March 2013


“Gambling is a disease of barbarians superficially civilized.” – Dean William Inge

Last weekend we watched the 2010 Géla Babluani thriller “13”, starring Sam Riley, Alice Barrett, Mickey Rourke, Ray Winstone, Jason Statham and Gaby Hoffmann. This was a good little thriller that was based on the Russian roulette idea and highlighted the perils of gambling, especially when the stakes are so high that they involve human lives. It paints a horrible picture of the lowest forms of human and the evil aspects of human nature.

The story begins in Talbot, Ohio, where an honest family of limited means finds themselves in dire economic straits when the father requires expensive, life-saving surgery. The son Vince (Riley), an electrician, overhears a man talking about making an obscene amount of money in just one day. Vince is fixing the electrical wiring in the man’s house and when the man overdoses on drugs, Vince finds a letter with instructions and a mobile phone that the man has received, both of which are connected with the money-making operation. Vince takes the man’s place and travels to New York to await contact and further instructions. He ends up at a remote house where wealthy men bet on who will survive a complicated gambling game of Russian roulette. Vince is Number 13 and even though his false identity is discovered very early in the piece, it’s too late for the gamblers not to use him. The psychological stress on Vince is immense as he attempts to cheat injury and death and make enough money to save his family.

The film is seems slightly overlong (even at 91 minutes) and could do with some editing down or alternatively a more substantial subplot. The flashbacks showing the lives of a selected few other players are a digression and an annoyance rather than a genuine subplot that highlights the main plot. Apparently this is a remake of a 2005 French film “13 Tzameti” by the same director, which has received more positive criticism and a higher rating in IMDB. I have not seen this earlier film, but I suspect that as is the case with many Hollywood remakes of foreign films, the second version is inferior.

The film is nevertheless a good study of gambling and how far gambling men will go to get their thrills. Cock-fights and dog-fights seem very tame compared to the “game” portrayed in this film. That such a gruesome gambling scheme could exist is a horrifying thought, but the way that it is depicted on film is quite chilling and the violence – both explicit and implicit is alarming. This film is not for the lily-livered and could cause many people to flinch and turn the DVD player off. It lays bare the dregs of humanity that resort to such activities and exemplifies very well the saying that “Humans are the basest of beasts”.

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