13: Game of Death (V)

Does the world really need another “extreme” DVD label? In the case of Dimension Extreme such a question has yet to be answered but it can’t be denied they are building a track record. The down side is the usual marketing of almost completely forgettable stuff to keep the cash flow going. I’m all for low budget filmmaking, and I believe that such efforts should be cut some slack by the viewer. But they also shouldn’t be marketed as the greatest thing since sliced flesh and Dimension has some films on its roster that have been marketed as being better than they actually are in my opinion. And yet some of Dimension Extremes stuff has been great. The gore comedy Black Sheep has its flaws but also has undeniable fun with its premise. Storm Warning dresses up a simple revenge story in some awfully energetic and grisly set pieces. And Nightmare Detective just made the Midnight Eye readers top ten list of favorite Japanese films of 2007. With the imminent release of the utterly ghastly, utterly brilliant Inside and the bitingly satiric Teeth this is a label that bears scrutiny based on their name alone.

But what of their recent Thai release 13: Game of Death? Well Dimension Extreme has packaged this thing in such a way as to make it look like an all out gore fest. That coupled with the seeming simplicity of the plot makes this movie sound like a cheap gore version of Finchers, The Game but 13 Game of Death is, for my money, a better movie than that, offering not only well paced thrills, chills, and kills but solid performances and a genre busting storyline that will probably offer you a couple good gasps in between giggles and tell-me-they’re-not-going-to-go-there gasps. The end result isn’t a masterpiece but it does offer more food for thought than other recent on-the-run cinematic debacles like Crank or DOA.

Pusit is a white collar worker deep in debt. Suddenly, immediately after losing his job, he gets a phone call offering him the chance to participate in a game involving a series of 13 challenges. The more challenges he completes the more money he earns. But what follows is an action packed, sometimes funny, often horrifying series of incidents that show just how far a man is willing to go to get ahead.

If this film has a major problem it’s the ending which offers a hard sci-fi twist clearly inspired by the white room sequence in the Matrix series but lacking credulity. We aren’t given any real reason to accept the basic premise at that point you either accept the dues ex machine or you don’t. But even though I was lifted out of the film I was encouraged to take some great questions with me and felt certainly if somewhat oddly moved. The characters here are morally complex, the point is well taken. And the violence actually seems well placed within the narrative.

The Making Of 13: Game of Death is excellent. I would have understood a bare bones release here but the truth is I’m not too surprised to see Dimension stepping up the quality of releases on this label. Here’s hoping it will continue.

Official Score