Géla Babluani's 13 Tzameti (2005) is a superb, disconcerting, seismic French nightmare in a minor key, and so, of course, Babluani's Americanized remake (awaiting distribution for more than a year and a half) lumbers, stumbles, and blows all its secrets at the outset. Russian roulette standoff, stacks of dollars, then flashback to our hospital-bill-strapped young hero (Sam Riley) following a lead toward illicit money and getting sucked into a covert, high-stakes tournament of gun-to-head doom-or-fortune run by the Evil Rich. The bizarre aggregate of growling star power on hand (Jason Statham, Mickey Rourke, the real Michael Shannon, 50 Cent, Ray Winstone) does not help substantiate this half-hearted redundancy, which often looks and sounds like something Charles Bronson paid bills with in 1979. Gone is the acute sense of stranger-in-a-strange-land Euro-weirdness (the new locale is upstate New York, as if), and instead of realist mysteries, we get leaden pathos. If Babluani's central metaphor holds up—capitalism as slaughterhouse casino— it's not for lack of trying to bury it in emphasis and caricature.
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