13 Game of Death promises to be a no holds barred journey through desperation, degradation and exploitation, and with a tag line which basically translates to ‘how much would you degrade yourself for a lot of money’ I had high hopes for the Thai import.
The plot is a simple one. Chit is on a horrid spiral downwards. We all have bad weeks but this guy’s takes the piss. He looses his car, house and job, with numerous bills outstanding all in one day. To make matters worse his mother is expecting more money to help put his sister through college. Chit is an ideal candidate for ‘the game’. The rules of the game are delivered through an anonymous caller who instructs Chit through each of his games, each promises to be more horrific that the last, but with the reward of an extensive cash prize; 100 000 000 Bhat to be precise.
The games open fairly swiftly, the first round being that he has to kill a fly, no problem there, and he’s well on the way to the jackpot. The next, eating the fly, takes a little bit more contemplation, but again no issue. From this the games increase in severity, opening him up to a range of social, and in the end criminal offences meaning that as a result of his action we get to see a little bit of a side story involving a friend of Chit and the special police division tracking him.
I don’t want to say too much about the games as it would essentially ruin the movie for you but a special mention must go to game four, eat a plate of shit. This scene will stay with you long after watching it!
Sadly at this point you think that things are going to get proper sick, but they don't. Rather disappointingly the games seem to get more bizarre but not particularly grim. There are a couple here and there which are good but they are intermixed by some really mundane tasks which seem a little abstract from the direction of the rest of the movie. Many of the games are very coincidental, and by the hour mark so many plot holes have appeared that the movie begins to loose consistency. Towards the end the pace drops a lot, its not boring by any stretch of the imagination, but it difficult to understand why writer/director Chukiat Sakveerakul chose that particular direction. Its rather unsatisfying, with a completely unnecessary twist rounding the deal off.
Looking back on the movie I see now that despite its billing, '13 Game of Death' was obviously not 'designed to shock' exploitation movie and when taken from a purely technical perspective it has its merits. The scripting is good, as is the choice to use a Caucasian/Thai in the lead role as he stood out from the rest of the cast. His character is expanded well with the flashbacks providing ample insight to his psychology. The voyeuristic nature of the people behind the game invites some thought, particularly the 'ordinary people' viewers watching the characters plight, no doubt a parody of our own society.
Overall, with the plot essentially inviting a whole host of sickness, gore and exploitation, I will be honest and say I was expecting more. The movie delivers in some aspects, but overall I found the lack of gore to be a little bit of a let down. The movie plays the role of character degradation well, with some fairly subtle notions to past abuse, and a definite nod towards the suggestion that he was always destined for this sort of exploitation. But this wasn’t really what I was looking for, nor is it what it is marketed to be. I would say, however, that the good parts of the movie make it worth the watch, and with most online stores selling it for less than a fiver, I would recommend the viewing.