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13: GAME OF DEATH (Thai)

  Publicity Stills of "13 Game of Death"
(Courtesy from Cathay-Keris Films)

In Thai with English and Chinese Subtitles
Director: Chookiat Sakveeraku
Cast: Krissada Sukusol, Achita Sikamana, Sarunyoo Wongkrachang, Nathapong Arunnetra
RunTime: 1 hr 55 mins
Released By: Cathay-Keris Films & Innoform Media
Rating: NC-16 (Some disturbing scenes)

Official Website: www.13beloved.com

Opening Day: 28 June 2007


13 is a new and very secret competition offering a grand prize of 100 million Baht. The contestants are chosen from those most afflicted with problems involving work, money, family and love. If they can complete 13 tasks, they'll receive riches beyond their wildest dreams. But there's a catch...the challenges will test them in every aspect of their lives from love to religion and even moral values. They may seem undemanding when they start but as they progress they become increasingly more intense until finally, they reach a stage where they are no longer sure if they are human anymore. As with every game there are rules and these rules must be obeyed at all times. If they fail even one of the tasks, they will be dismissed from the game. The rules prohibit them from giving up from telling anyone else that they are playing and from investigating the origin of the game. A man named Phuchit is delighted to be offered the chance to compete, little realizing that it will cost him his friends, his family, his sanity and perhaps his life...What wouldn't you do for money?

Movie Review:

Game shows have been popular with their seemingly effortless ways of making a quick buck, and more so when games such as Deal or No Deal require only sheer luck in grabbing a chunk of the winning stakes. 13: Game of Death (international title 13 Beloved) plays on such a premise, where a jackpot of up to 100 million Thai Baht is offered if the chosen contestant is willing to complete a set of 13 tasks as outlined by the gamemaster, with a sizeable percentage payout with each completed task. It plays on the greed of man, having tasted success in the easy preliminary rounds and staking it all for the opportunity to proceed further.

In itself, it may seem like a poor man's cousin to genre movies like Saw or HOstel, where characters are put into pressure cooker scenarios, and given limited time to escape their predicament. Here, it examines what one would do, or do not, for money, especially when one is down and out on luck, unemployed, with mounting debts, and still reeling from a failed relationship. With nothing seemingly left to lose, and with the back against the corner, would you play? Phuchit (Krissada Sukosol) would, and discovers that the game constantly questions his morality and pushing his boundaries.

13: Game of Death is an excellent idea, based on a comic book by Ekasit Thairat. However, its translation to film leaves much to be desired. It shows plenty of promise initially, but what seems to be the bugbear is how easily scenes become dragged. Perhaps it is 10 challenges too long, sometimes bordering on being too coincidental for some challenges to be believed. To the filmmakers' credit, the challenges though have been designed to be varied to sustain interest, and as the stakes get higher, naturally they become increasingly complex in parallel.

But pity it wanted to ape some Hollywood moments, and seemed to have taken a leaf out of The Matrix movies in having a Deus Ex Machina coupled with an Architect-like character and environment. You'd wonder why the plug wasn't pulled to prevent this, as some scenes, especially those in the latter stages, just happen without much explanation nor narrative continuity with earlier events, sticking out like a sore thumb. The special effects though help especially in upping the ante on gore, but sometimes seemed to be hurriedly rendered without quality finishing.

The redeeming factor however, is witnessing Puchit's fall from grace as he progresses, and actually the effort placed in providing a rich history for our protagonist by tying up the challenges presented to his past experiences. The whammy though will be its finale, which comes with a twist ending worthy of further discussion after the movie ends. When you reconcile and forgive, it isn't always that the gesture is reciprocated. Sad, but grim and true at times.

13 may be an ominous number, though the movie is anything but, despite its obvious flaws. The Chinese title chosen may be similar to Bruce Lee's final movie where he battles his enemies stage by stage in a pagoda, similar to our protagonist's staged based challenges, but while one may be lightning fast and powerful each step of the way, our hero here (and ourselves) have to plod through the stages, with the promise of a huge carrot at the end of the road. The greed of man shines through indeed.

Movie Rating:

(Like a game show, you've to get past the mundane plot development before being presented with the prized finale)

Review by Stefan Shih

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