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13 Sins Blu-ray Review

13 Sins (2014) movie poster 13 Sins

Theatrical Release: April 18, 2014 / Running Time: 93 Minutes / Rating: R

Director: Daniel Stamm / Writers: David Birke, Daniel Stamm (screenplay); Chukiat Sakveerakul, Eakasit Thairatana (13: Game of Death, a.k.a. 13 Game Sayawng)

Cast: Mark Webber (Elliot Brindle), Devon Graye (Michael Brindle), Tom Bower (Mr. Brindle), Rutina Wesley (Shelby), Ron Perlman (Detective Chilcoat), Pruitt Taylor Vince (Vogler), Clyde Jones (Gerry), Deneen Tyler (Joyce), Tom S. Lawson Jr. (Professor Edgar Solomon), Richard Burgi (Kopeckny - Elliot's Boss), George Coe (voice of Game Host), Donny Boaz (John Witter), Brylee Woodward (Little Girl), Sabrina Gennarino (Mother), Jenn Foreman (Waitress), Jon Eyez (Coop)

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13 Sins remakes the 2006 Thai film 13: Game of Death. Though the greyscale cover art and its name-dropping
of director Daniel Stamm's previous film The Last Exorcism lead you to expect a horror movie, this 2014 limited theatrical release is more of a psychological thriller, kind of a cross between Phone Booth and The Game.

We open in Perth, Australia, where an aging scholar stuns his dressed-up audience by delivering a speech of vulgar jokes before cutting off the fingers of a colleague. This doesn't directly relate to the rest of the film, but it sets a tone where the unexpected and uncharacteristic can occur.

The rest of our time is spent in New Orleans. There, big things are afoot for Elliot Brindle (Snow Day's Mark Webber). The 32-year-old insurance salesman is about to marry his girlfriend (Rutina Wesley), who is pregnant with their first child. He's also expecting a promotion to senior sales manager.

In "13 Sins", Elliot Brindle (Mark Webber) is challenged to commit disturbing acts, like ordering coffee for a dead man.

Instead, Elliot gets unexpectedly fired by a boss who's simultaneously cracking walnuts. There are repercussions beyond the obvious to Elliot's sudden unemployment. The loss of medical insurance means Elliot's mentally disabled younger brother (Devon Graye) will have to return to the institution he hated. Meanwhile, evicted from assisted living, racist old father (Tom Bower) moves in with the boys, not an ideal situation and not only because Elliot's fiancée is black.

Then one night, Elliot gets a call on his cell phone, which unusually triggers Julius Fucík's familiar military march "Entry of the Gladiators" as its ringtone. Elliot is told he has been randomly chosen to participate in a game show.
The anonymous caller has all of Elliot's information and promises him $1,000 if he kills the fly buzzing around in his car. Elliot does and receives a text confirming that the money has been deposited into his bank account. When it checks out online, Elliot decides to take up the same caller's second challenge: to eat that dead fly for another $3,622.

Turns out those are the first two of thirteen challenges that will be assigned to Elliot one at a time. With each one, both risk and reward increase. Elliot has to make a child cry, burn a church's hand-crafted Nativity set, and order a cup of coffee for a man who has recently killed himself. The challenges come to jeopardize Elliot's wedding and family. They also put police officers on his trail, led by Detective Chilcoat (Ron Perlman), a grizzled veteran who's interested in a bystander's claims of some vast conspiracy.

Detective Chilcoat (Ron Perlman) takes genuine interest in the crazy conspiracy claims of Vogler (Pruitt Taylor Vince).

Boasting far more realism than you'd expect given the cover art, 13 Sins is dark and twisted but also oddly intriguing and creative. Though the graphic violence and increasingly heinous acts will turn off some viewers, it stands as an interesting exploration of the lengths that people will go to in financial desperation. Few of us bat an eye at swatting a fly, but where do we draw the ethical and moral line when thousands of dollars needed to provide for the well-being of loved ones are at stake?

It's not every day that a thriller gets you to think about something, so 13 Sins deserves some credit, even if you are repulsed by its content and unsympathetic to its characters.

After a single-week engagement in just 45 theaters last April under the Radius-TWC and Dimension Films banners, 13 Sins recently came to DVD and Blu-ray from Weinstein home video partner Anchor Bay Entertainment.

13 Sins Blu-ray Disc cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray Disc Details

2.40:1 Widescreen
5.1 DTS-HD MA (English)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, Spanish
Not Closed Captioned; Video Extras Subtitled
Release Date: June 17, 2014
Single-sided, single-layered disc (BD-25)
Suggested Retail Price: $29.99
Also available on DVD ($24.98 SRP) and Amazon Instant Video
Blue Keepcase

VIDEO and AUDIO

The 2.40:1 widescreen presentation of 13 Sins is more colorful than the genre and artwork might lead you to expect. The picture is sharp, clean, and reasonably saturated if not quite vibrant. The 5.1 DTS-HD master audio also warrants praise for its strong use of the full soundfield for distributing atmosphere and score that complement the crisp dialogue.

Director Daniel Stamm speaks in front of cast headshots in "The Making of '13 Sins.'" Elliot tries to get this smoking young lady in a laundromat to complete a challenge for him in this deleted sequence.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

The Blu-ray's bonus features begin with an audio commentary by director/co-writer Daniel Stamm and three of his actors, Mark Webber, Ron Perlman, and Devon Graye. They talk about shooting in New Orleans, plans that changed (Shelby's character was conceived as Jewish, a deleted scene preserved elsewhere),
the film's inconsistent tone, and the use of an emu instead of an ostrich. While Stamm leads the track with screen-specific reflections on production, Webber confesses urinal anxiety, and Perlman drops some profanity and addresses his upcoming directorial debut. It's an intermittently entertaining listen.

On the video side, where everything is encoded in HD, we start with "The Making of 13 Sins" (8:38). Enthusiasm over the concept pervades the cast and crew's talking heads comments, which are complemented by abundant behind-the-scenes footage and even a glimpse of an audition tape.

A deleted sequence (5:50) preserves an unused challenge that sees Elliot having to receive oral sex from a willing stranger and trying his luck at a laundromat. It's quite awkward.

This alternate ending leaves things more uncertain and ominous for Elliot Brindle (Mark Webber). Screenwriter David Birke's Skype meltdown over script revisions is preserved.

Next is an alternate ending (2:01) that would have closed the film on a more menacing note.

"Anatomy of a Meltdown" (2:42) has Stamm introduce by webcam a Skype clip of co-writer David Birke freaking out over the elimination
of a scene he toiled on and was proud of. It's not the kind of thing typically shared, so there's some interest in that, but it mainly feels like a consolation to Birke by acknowledging his unused work.

The disc opens with trailers for Blue Ruin and Dark Skies. Per studio policy, 13 Sins' own trailer is not included.

The menu plays scored clips inside a round window. Like other Weinstein-Anchor Bay Blu-rays, this one doesn't let you set bookmarks or resume unfinished playback, unfortunately.

No inserts or slipcover accompany the full-color disc and plain blue keepcase.

Elliot (Mark Webber) is shocked by all that the KITT-esque anonymous caller knows about him. The game comes to involve Elliot's mentally handicapped younger brother Michael (Devon Graye).

CLOSING THOUGHTS

If you can endure brutal and reprehensible content, you may be able to appreciate the creativity and curiosity of 13 Sins, a film that contemplates the asking price of one's morality. This thriller stumbles at its end and induces cringes throughout, but it is not without thought and some relevance. I recommend one viewing except for sensitive, easily-scarred viewers.

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Related Reviews:
Directed by Daniel Stamm: The Last Exorcism
The GameMy Son, My Son, What Have Ye DoneGetawayTaxi Driver
Mark Webber: Scott Piglrim vs. the World | Ron Perlman: Pacific RimSeason of the WitchDrive
Tom Bower: Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call - New Orleans | Pruitt Taylor Vince: TrappedDrive AngryBeautiful Creatures

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Reviewed July 12, 2014.



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