13 Sins (2014) Movie Review
Director: Daniel Stamm
Starring: Mark Webber, Devon Graye, Rutina Wesley, Ron Perlman
13 Sins is an American remake of a Thai psychological thriller/horror movie, taking elements from David Fincher’s The Game and some bits & pieces so to speak from Saw with varying degrees of success. Here is the synopsis:
A cryptic phone call sets off a dangerous game of risks for Elliot, a down-on-his luck salesman. The game promises increasing rewards for completing 13 tasks, each more sinister than the last. (Source: IMDB)
I’ll start first with the things I liked about 13 Sins. The premise has the potential for increasingly disturbing and suspenseful scenes, just the sort of thing I’d want from a psychological thriller. From the time Elliot gets his first mysterious phone call fifteen minutes in, the pacing is good, there’s no major lull in the story. Even though I worried that this movie would come across as simply a countdown of 13 sins being committed there’s a good flow to how the story unfolds.
Wikipedia describes the movie’s theme as addiction, as in an addiction to the game and Elliot’s new emerging persona. In retrospect I can see that but it wasn’t what I was thinking during the movie. Instead, I liked how it delves into questions like how a good-natured, honest man could be turned into a dark, greedy person. Or maybe an unsettling thought is that there is potential for depravity within most of us which can be unleashed under the right set of circumstances.
Actor Mark Webber plays Elliot, you might recognize him as the lead singer of the band Sex Bob-omb in Scott Pilgrim Vs The World. Webber is believable whether he’s portraying the mild-mannered or edgier side to Elliot’s personality. He also does a good job at making his character likeable even after he breaks bad. At the same time, credit goes to the screenplay for retaining Elliot’s sympathetic qualities.
The light humour sprinkled throughout the movie keeps things from being too serious in appropriate situations. But some of the less positive aspects of 13 Sins are the uneven tone and feel. Considering the dark subject matter, 13 Sins could benefit from a more intensely menacing atmosphere in the first half of the movie. Some of the latter scenes do become quite gruesome yet I had to suspend my disbelief to refrain from snickering at times when I wasn’t supposed to. 13 Sins is not a visually striking movie. Higher production values and better cinematography can be found on TV shows like True Detective and Hannibal.
It’s a good decision to focus the movie on Elliot but the rest of the cast is mainly window dressing. True Blood’s Rutina Wesley plays Elliot’s supportive finance. She doesn’t get much to do other than wonder what’s going on with her boyfriend’s erratic behavior. Hellboy himself, Ron Perlman, is the biggest star in the cast. Unfortunately, he has a limited supporting role as a cop trying to solve the recent rash of crimes. Better utilized is the younger mentally challenged brother, he serves as a motivation factor for Elliot to earn extra money to support the family.
13 Sins is not as clever as a movie it hopes to be though I appreciate it when a twist is right under our nose but may not be obvious to everyone. Without giving away too much, I’ll just say that there are a number of dangling or unresolved plot threads. I get the sense that the director intentionally did not want to over explain things. The game itself is meant to be a mystery which can be further explored in a sequel.
13 Sins is far from a failure but it’s not a sensational movie by any means. It’s a pretty decent straight-to-DVD movie. I’d recommend 13 Sins mainly to those who enjoy low-budget thriller movies and while it’s not a total gore-fest, horror fans might like it too.