Blu-ray Review: “13 Sins” Is An Impressive Mind-Blowing Experience

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Review by James McDonald

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.

In 1997, David Fincher’s third feature film “The Game” was released. It starred Michael Douglas and Sean Penn and was one hell of a mind-bending thriller. I won’t give anything away in case there’s some who haven’t seen it but for those who have, I think you’d agree with me that when the big finale reveals itself, the movie goes beyond far-fetched into totally implausible territory but it was still an enjoyable ride. I would put “13 Sins” into the same category. By the end of the movie, the events that have transpired are so outlandish and insane, you wonder why and how you managed to stay focused right up to the last shot without turning the movie off out of sheer frustration.

The answer to that is simple: director Daniel Stamm has constructed a story with believable characters in everyday situations that are plunged into an otherworldly existence and by the end of the movie, you don’t realize just how extravagant some of the set-ups were until after the end credits have rolled. Then you begin to think back and find yourself questioning your own mind, wondering how you didn’t catch it the first time around. The movie begins with Elliot (Mark Webber), a salesman who has just been fired from his job because he wouldn’t take advantage of an elderly woman and try and force her into taking the company’s most expensive product, instead, working with her to accommodate her age and financial means.

Elliot is engaged to Shelby (Rutina Wesley) and they have their rehearsal dinner in the next few days and Elliot’s mentally-challenged brother Michael (Devon Graye) is living with them. Now that Elliot has lost his insurance, it’s only a matter of time before Michael is sent back to the mental institution. On top of all this, Elliot finds out that his father is being evicted and invites himself to their place. Just when things can’t seem to get any worse, Elliot receives a phone call one evening from an unidentified source that offers him $1,000 if he is able to swat the fly that is bothering him in his car. He does so and then gets a text stating that the money has been deposited into his account. From this point forward, the challenges get bigger as do the financial rewards but he is instructed that in order to win the game and collect his prize, he must complete all 13 challenges without fail.

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The movie works because we see that Elliot is a good guy and we feel for him when he has no choice but to comply with the task given to him. This is what’s missing from so many movies these days, being able to relate to the characters onscreen and feel for them, whatever situation they might be going through. From having to trash his own rehearsal dinner to amputating the arm of a former high-school bully, Elliot finds out that anybody he meets might be connected to the game at hand, including his own family so he has to be very careful who he confides in. Detective Chilcoat (Ron Perlman) comes into the case and through his own investigating, determines that the so-called ‘game’ has been around for a long time and by the looks of things, will be around for some time to come.

It’s at this point in the movie that good old common sense kicks in and you find yourself telling him to just quit but it quickly becomes evident that some of the crimes he has already committed, are punishable by many years in prison and if he quits, he can take his chances with the law. But, if he chooses to finish the game, any crimes he has committed, will be totally erased and he will have no record whatsoever. Talk about paranoia. The film moves at breakneck speed, slowing down periodically to allow Elliot a little time to try and comprehend exactly what is going on around him and just when he begins to get some sort of inclination, the action picks up again.

He is being watched absolutely everywhere he goes; streets, cars, apartments, anywhere and everywhere and this is one of the elements that makes you wonder how is that possible? How could they have eyes everywhere? You then find out that the game has endured for a long time with many different participants over the years so they have had plenty of practice. “13 Sins” is a genuinely exciting, fast-paced movie with some nice twists and turns along the way. Mark Webber gives a terrific performance as Elliot, a man whose façade slowly crumbles as he loses control, exposing a man who finds himself trapped in surroundings he cannot understand. Recommended.

In stores June 17th

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James McDonald
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