13: Game of Death – DVD Review

Available at Amazon.com

Bad marketing. We all know of a few movies that were not at all the types of movies that their trailers or posters made them out to be. When you look at that DVD cover above, what kind of movie do you think you’re getting in to? A torture porn movie perhaps? A Thai version of Hostel? Its a shame that out of all of the images in the movie, this was picked to be the DVD cover of the US release. Torture porn it is not, 13: Game of Death or 13: Beloved (the original Thai title) is a powerhouse psychological thriller with a heaping helping of black comedy.

Possibly having the worst day of his life, Puchit (as my subtitles called him but according to imdb, he is “Pusit”) has had his car repossessed, had his mother ask him for more money, had the big sale stolen out from under him by a co-worker, and consequently, gotten fired from his job. As he takes a cigarette break, he gets a phone call from a person who, despite the fact that he’s sitting alone in a stairwell, seems to be able to see him. This person invites him to participate in a game show where, if he can complete 13 tasks, will win the jackpot of 100 million Baht. The first task is easy enough, all he has to do is swat the fly next to him with the newspaper he’s holding in his hand. Wary, Puchit does so and immediately following, hears the bleeps of his phone alerting him of the money just transferred into his bank account. Gleefully, he accepts the challenge and the game is on.

With each challenge, Puchit’s morality and humanity is questioned as they get worse and worse. Puchit finds himself spiraling out of control, caught up in this game, having lost sight of things important to him in order to win money. His relationship with his abusive father, his recent failed relationship, everything will be wagered against. The movie constantly and unabashedly asks of the audience: What would you do for money? How far would you go?

13: Game of Death is based on a clever Thai comic by award-winning writer/cartoonist Eakasit Thairaat, who co-wrote the screenplay along with director Chukiat Sakveerakul. The movie has won several awards throughout Asia, a stunning feat for such a young director. Every award is deserved. This film is completely engaging in every sense of the word. The emotions felt by the audience throughout the course of the film vary from nail-biting tension to grief to pity to rage. Honestly, if I were to compare this to any movie, it would hold more comparisons to Chan-wook Park’s Oldboy than anything else. Stylistically, it’s as dark and gritty as Park’s film. The humor is as well-placed and as dark as Oldboy, too. The ending is not nearly as gut-wrenchingly shocking, but it comes close.

This is one of the only cases where the bad marketing possibly helped the movie. I was expecting predictable torture porn, but I got a smooth, stylish, snappy thriller of a movie that captured my attention from the beginning and didn’t let go until the end.

Just so we’re clear, this is a movie from Thailand so it is in Thai with English subtitles, or for those of you who don’t dig subtitles, you can choose the English dubbed audio track. Spanish subtitles are also available if you prefer. The movie is also presented in crisp Dolby Digital sound.

Making of 13: Game of Death – This is a very interesting subtitled behind the scenes featurette, with plenty of interviews with the director. Plenty of trivia is interspersed throughout this making-of, including the fact that not only is the movie based on a comic, but it is the first Thai movie to be based on a comic. We also learn what the poop was made out of. That’s all I’m going to say. I’m not going to give it away. But yes, there is a scene in the movie involving poop. The director also announces that due to the success of 13, there will be a sequel.

Also included are the original theatrical trailer for the movie, as well as the teaser.

Previews on the DVD include: The Mist, Diary of the Dead, Storm Warning, and Black Sheep.

Possibly the best Thai movie I have ever seen, 13: Game of Death is a hilarious and gruesome thrill ride that far exceeded my expectations. Recommended.

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Dimension Extreme/Weinstein Company presents 13: Game of Death. Directed by Chukiat Sakveerakul. Starring Krissada Terrence, Sarunyoo Wongkrachang. Written by Eakasit Thairaat and Chukiat Sakveerakul. Running time: 117 minutes. Rated UNRATED. Released on DVD: March 11, 2008. Available at Amazon.com.