I love me some corruption stories. The transformative powers of greed and lust can be some powerful narrative tools. “13 Sins” (a remake of the Thai film, “13 Beloved”) is an intense, tight little psychological thriller. With a strong cast centered on a relatable “hero”, and just the right (slight) amount of gore thrown in, it makes for a pretty slick ride through the chaos and mayhem wrought by this insane Game.
“13 Sins” follows Elliot, a down on his luck salesman. He’s expecting a baby. He’s about to get married. He’s got a disabled brother with medical bills up the ass. And he just got fired. Lucky for him, there’s a mysterious voice on his phone offering him the chance to fix all of his problems overnight. It’s simple: complete 13 tasks as instructed, no questions asked, and in return, direct deposits that keep getting bigger. Of course these tasks turn sinister and dangerous pretty quickly. Things escalate from swatting flies and making kids cry, to desecrating corpses and arson. Elliot soon has to figure out how much sin he can live with, and whether all that money will cover it.
“They’re the functional equivalents of gods. They must get… bored.”
We meet Elliot just as shit is going terribly for him. Who hasn’t been there, right? And who hasn’t wished for a magic phone call that’ll fix everything for nothing? It’s a good setup because everyone in the audience has dreamed it one time or another. The opening scene is both surreal and grotesque and sets up the film nicely. When Elliot gets his phone call, we can already assume where things are going. This “Game” isn’t one where anybody really wins, except the sickos watching. The tasks exponential increase in lawlessness and insanity is entertaining and also terribly disconcerting. There’s a brief scene with a circular saw that is just unnerving. The gore isn’t over the top, just effective.
Mark Webber is believable and likable in the lead, and so you actually find it hard to root against him when he starts getting a little unhinged. I can honestly say, I’ve never watched any films of his before, but his performance makes me want to. Ron Perlman is obviously terrific as the detective following the mayhem left in Elliot’s wake, and Pruitt Taylor Vince (always a pleasure to watch) shows up for a role too small for his talent, but he brings his A-game anyway. The more plugged-in viewers may recognize the voice on the phone, George Coe for his extensive voice work in “Skyrim” (I knew him immediately). His voice is equal parts reassuring and unsettling, and is perfect for the role of the mysterious caller.
“It’s pretty much Hamlet in here.”
I like the film because it doesn’t feel like it’s pulling punches. As an American remake, it’s of course a little toned down from the Thai version, but it’s still pretty brutal and shocking at times. This is not a feel-good movie, and in fact, once the tasks begin, I don’t recall a feel-good moment. The plot gets a bit murky toward the ending, and the climax leaves something to be desired, but overall it works. The movie is exactly what it should be, and is entertaining to boot.
“13 Sins” is one of those rare thrillers that should appeal to fans of the genre and film in general. A solid cast (PERLMAN!), a cool story with some fresh twists, and some actually appropriate levels of gore make this movie pretty damn good.