13 - Game of Death review

Tuesday, 25 August 2009 01:00

 “13: Game of Death” is an exciting and resonant Thai thriller from the same stable as martial arts sensations “Ong Bak” and “Warrior King”. Krissada Terrence stars as Chit, a man whose life has just hit rock-bottom. He has lost his job and car, and is heavily in debt.

Just when he thinks there is no way out, he receives a mysterious phone call offering him untold wealth in return for his involvement in an underground Internet TV gameshow. Chit will face 13 challenges, each offering greater financial reward but also heightened personal risk and danger. How far will he be prepared to go, and what will he sacrifice to win the ultimate prize of £2 million?

13 - Game of Death DVD

“13” hits a number of very topical notes that help to make it compelling viewing. Firstly, it thrives on the ongoing popularity of reality TV series such as “Big Brother” and “I’m a Celebrity”. Initially, Chit does not fully realise that his actions are being viewed by an audience, even though he is told as much. Once this realisation dawns, it is of little consequence to him at least, because he is under so much pressure, and so caught up in the game. Being the centre of attention does not factor into his decision making process, so long as – as far as he can control it - that attention does not come from the police or other people in the locality.

The movie is also relevant in terms of the global economic crisis. With unemployment rates rising by the day, and forecasts of climbing crime rates as people seek alternative ways to pay off their mounting bills, the central concept of the film is not too far away from reality. It is a matter of risk versus reward.

On its own, topicality is not enough to support a movie. A thriller needs to be engaging, intriguing and exciting, and “13” largely meets these demands.

The central character of Chit is established in sufficient depth, and director Chookiat Sakveerakul ensures that the audience is behind him from the beginning. Terrence comfortably conveys Chit’s break-neck journey from vulnerable and loveable underdog, through to manic and hyper-stressed lunatic. The tension is exponentially ratcheted up with each new challenge, sometimes because the tasks are time-critical, sometimes because the level of disgust involved has the viewer on the edge of their seat, and more often than not because The Law is closing in on Chit as his challenges invariably and inevitably draw more and more attention to him. He has no time to tidy up after himself, especially as his wake of destruction grows by the minute.

As with “Saw” and “The Game”, momentum is maintained by keeping the challenges interesting, imaginative and varied. Some of them can be guessed at, but others are either wildly left-field or obscured by necessitating mini-steps rather than one clear goal. Chit might be given instructions to go somewhere or meet someone, but he then has to piece the rest of the challenge together, never quite sure if he has done enough each time until the phone rings again with its unmistakable siren ringtone, confirming he has completed the task. TV show “The Crystal Maze” is brought to mind in the sense that the tasks involve mental or physical elements, or a combination of the two, though courage is always a necessity.

A second plot thread surrounds Chit’s IT-savvy friend Tong (Achita Wuthinounsurasit), who cannot help but notice that something is wrong. She puts her techie skills to the test in trying to uncover the source of the game, and tries to make Chit see sense before he goes too far. The further she delves into his predicament, the more their paths become entwined. The omens are not good, as Chit is told early on that the rules of the game include preventing those around him from becoming aware of the game, and not trying to locate the organisers. Tong’s meddling actions create a conflict of interest that helps sustain the audience’s interest.

“13” is predominantly a deadly serious movie, but there are a few moments of levity which help to break up the otherwise unremitting tension. One example is when Chit is asked to eat something even worse than the fly featured in his first two challenges; another is when a violent mission erupts into madcap, “Bottom”-style slapstick. It is dark humour that thankfully does not feel out of place.

Perhaps inevitably, there comes a point in the challenges where the audience has to ask whether they believe that someone would cross the line. It is here that “13” falters slightly, and the suspension of disbelief is partially knocked. Of course it is subjective, but thoughts and questions such as “Surely Chit’s earned enough money now – wouldn’t he stop there?” are raised. To my mind, the movie does go off the rails a bit, but fortunately enough excitement and momentum has been built up by this point to see it through to the taut and twisting conclusion.

“13: Game of Death” (Certificate “18”) is out now on the Revolver Entertainment DVD label, priced £12.99, or less from www.cultvstore.com

The light-weight special features comprise a trailer and a “making of”, which is actually just a selection of behind the scenes clips presented without any narrative structure.

Meanwhile, thanks to Revolver Entertainment, you could have had an opportunity to enter our competition and win one of three copies of this DVD; all you had to do was take a look at the movie’s trailer, and then answer a related question.

Click here for the low-resolution trailer

Click here for the high-res trailer

We asked: What kind of insect is Chit challenged to eat as one of the 13 stages of his ordeal? Was it:

(a) a wasp

(b) a mosquito

(c) a fly

The answer was (c), and the winners were Steven Naylor of Darwen, Sandra Slawson of Wrexham, and Adrian Cook of Southampton. Well done all!


Last modified on Thursday, 10 May 2012 16:37

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