Being primarily a reviewer of anime it’s nice to occasionally review films that are made using real living actors. The only other film that I have reviewed for Heroic Cinema that was made with real people on screen was Imprint whish isn’t that different from 13:GoD. Both have violence and strange family relationships. Both have horror themes but 13 is more of a horror thriller whereas Imprint was a more standard psychological horror film.
13: Game of Death has absolutely nothing to do with the Bruce Lee film of a similar name. Originally called 13: Beloved in its native Thailand, the film is all about Puchit, a salesman for a music instrument company who is having a hard time in life. He’s slowly losing everything because he can’t make sales, which isn’t helped by one of his co-workers stealing his sales. Asked to ‘resign’ instead of out-rightly being fired, he gets a phone call offering cash prizes if he can complete 13 challenges. With so little left to lose and so much to gain, Puchit leaps at the chance to make 100 million baht. I mean how hard can it be?
With the challenge set, Puchit begins the 13 challenges that slowly get more hazardous to his health, violent and morally questionable. I don’t want to spoil any of the challenges, as that is much of the fun of the film; discovering what the challenge is and whether or not Puchit will complete all of the challenges. But being honest, I don’t think I would have made it past challenge number five. While he goes about his work, a female co-worker slowly begins to unravel the secrets of the mysterious game show behind it all, which puts them both in danger.
In the beginning I really didn’t like Chit. I really wasn’t buying that this guy would allow himself to be so put upon by his family (his mum calls to borrow money twice, the second time because his sister spent the money on a phone instead of school) but then when he agrees to take part in the challenge he does something that every single employee would love to do given the right circumstances; punch the jerk co-worker that’s been stealing his sales in the face. How can you not root for a guy that? In that moment he fulfills a long-standing fantasy of my own at the termination of employment – I’d love to have some form of revenge on my employers.
All is not completely perfect with the film though. There is an abrupt change when the controller of the game is revealed in an almost James Bondian Blofeld like manner and if you were to actually stop and think about the challenges and how they all work you might question the logic behind them and if they would actually work at all. It is also schizophrenic in that the first half of the film has an air of black comedy surrounding it that disappears during the second half as the challenges and moral decisions get darker.
13: Game of Death is an interesting but flawed film on the nature of how far someone might go for money in a modern world, and whether it’s worth giving over your soul for it. It reminds me a little of the Saw franchise in the murky choice themes. It comes as no surprise than that it has been optioned for an eventual American remake.