“13 Sins” was this years “supporter & friends”-exclusive Secret Society-screening. And while I already knew the other two surprise movies in advance, in this case, I had absolutely no idea what I would be getting. This was also my last movie of this years festival (in case you’re wondering what happened to “Puzzle” and “Live”; I didn’t see them, sorry. I just was too sick and also too worn-out, and decided that I would rather go to bed a little earlier and maybe catch the special screening of “Once Upon A Time in the West” on the following day. And I have absolutely no regrets about that), which offered, at least for me, a rather so-so goodbye.
In the interest of full disclosure, let me start by saying that I wasn’t the biggest fan of last years “Cheap Thrills”, which featured a similar concept. While I thought that the idea behind it was intriguing, many things just didn’t work for me. For example, I would have preferred it if the main protagonist there wouldn’t have been laid off, and simply would have jumped at the chance to earn a few bucks. Unfortunately, they’re doing the same thing here again, adding a pregnancy and an imminent wedding on top of that. It’s like the filmmakers are trying to say that people are only greedy when they really really need the money, a claim that somehow doesn’t seem to be supported by the world around us. I understand why they’re doing it. They want us to sympathize with the protagonist, at least for a while, by showing us that he doesn’t do these things voluntarily, but that he’s desperate, because he’s standing with his back against the wall financially. Still, I think it would be so much more poignant without these blatant excuses.
Another problem is that it’s rather obvious how the movie is going to progress. Of course, the challenges start off completely harmless, and then get more and more difficult – from a moral point of view, mostly. Having said that, it was quite interesting to find out what the next challenge is going to be, and some of them actually were quite funny. Others, on the other hand, were rather grim. Now, obviously, with a movie like that you’re inevitably going to ask yourself “How far would I’ve been willing to go?”. Granted, I’m in the happy position to not have any money issues, so it’s easy for me to say, but I would have dropped out at number six. Which also means that afterwards, Elliot was on his own, and that I didn’t really sympathize with/root for him afterwards. Which only shows how futile it is to try to make him desperate in order to make us understand why he’s playing this game. Because sooner or later, he’ll lose the audience anyway.
Further problems I had with the movie: Mark Webber looked irritably like a slighty younger Martin Freeman (I was about to write that if Peter Jackson decides to go back to Middle Earth in 10 years and do his not-based-on-any-book-prequel-trilogy to the “Hobbit”-Trilogy, and needs to cast a younger Bilbo, he has to look no further than Mark; but by that time, he’d probably be too old for that too), but without having the same acting chops (he’s not bad, but also not particularly good, either). The movie was very predictable. Richard Burgi was totally wasted in his tiny role. Eliot’s brother was no character, but only served a plot function. And the ending in the retirement home or wherever that was featured three twists in a row, the first and the third ones painfully obvious, and the second one just far too stupid for my taste. And the ending was weird too, since it seemed to imply that with his last act, Elliot ultimately won. Dafuq?
One thing where I’m still not sure what I think about it is the fact that Elliot seems to be enjoying these challenges over time, ultimately eagerly awaiting the next text message. It was something new, something that I didn’t expect, and an interesting idea. On the other hand, it made it even more difficult for me to sympathize with him. What I did like: The first half actually wasn’t half bad. It moved at a swift pace, and as predictable as the progression of the challenges might have been, it still was nice to see what the filmmakers would come up with next. It was also nicely shot, and featured some sinister, gruesome scenes. Overall, I don’t think that it’s even remotely terrible enough as to be a Level 13-worthy “sin” for a “movie challenge”-game, but it didn’t really thrill me either. However, if you (unlike me) loved “Cheap Thrills”, give this one a try.