Starring: Mark Webber, Rutina Wesley, Tom Bower, Devon Graye, Pruitt Taylor Vince, Ron Perlman, Richard Burgi
Director: Daniel Stamm
Opening with a scene where a respected elderly professor seems to lose his marbles by reciting crude limericks in front of a well-to-do audience before chopping a woman’s finger off when she tries to assist him, “13 Sins” is about seeing unlikely people do things they wouldn’t ordinarily do.
Enter Elliot Brindle (Mark Webber – “Snow Day”, “Weapons”, “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World”). He is a nice guy. Real nice. And he’s got a lot going on.
Creditors are filling up his voicemail, his bigoted old man (Tom Bower) is getting evicted and he’s just about to get married to his pregnant girlfriend, Shelby (Rutina Wesley – TV’s “True Blood”).
So it’s a bad time for him to lose his job – and the health insurance that ensures his mentally disabled brother Michael (Devon Graye – TV’s “Dexter”) is looked after – after his acerbic boss (Richard Burgi) runs him down as too pure and honest to be a good salesman.
Later that night he receives a call while at a stop light where a man tells him (in one of those over-egged 1980s gameshow voices) that he’s been selected to be part of a new game that can win him mucho wealth. He tells Elliot that swatting the fly buzzing around his car will net him $1000. Elliot complies and then complies with a second challenge of swallowing the fly which earns him even more. He checks his bank account and finds the money has been deposited.
So far, so good.
Even though Elliot is, presumably, uncomfortable with the fact that this person seems to have the ability to see him at all times, he still agrees to partake in the rest of the game. There are eleven more challenges with increasing rewards and all must be completed or he will lose everything he has won up to that point.
Of course the challenges become more difficult and nice guy Elliot soon finds himself the focus of Detective Chilcoat (Joy! Ron Perlman!! – TV’s “Beauty and the Beast”, “Hellboy”) as his actions become crimes and accumulate in number and severity.
A remake of Thai horror “13 Beloved”, writer and director Daniel Stamm doesn’t hang around. The story is swift and hard-hitting with enough gore to keep genre fans happy. It’s not “Saw”-level, but that’s to its credit I have to say. The connection to “Saw” is appropriate as “13 Sins” is also a film where a person is ultimately cajoled in to doing unthinkable things just to survive.
Elliot’s conversion from gutless nobody to a guy who gets a thrill from outwitting the cops and driving through red lights is a little ham-fisted. But “13 Sins” avoids collapsing on itself with enough twists and turns to stay interesting and genuinely surprising.
Webber is the main character and does a good job in portraying an everyday man who becomes capable and paranoid enough to do what he sees as necessary.
A little uneven in parts but a strong final act makes “13 Sins” a genre hit.