13 Tzameti (2006) – movie review

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Movie Review by Vivienne Messenger

Starring: George Babluani, Aurelien Recoing, Philippe Passon, Pascal Bongard
Director: Gela Babluani

Shot in black and white, 13 is the debut feature of 26 year-old Georgian director Gela Babluani. And what an unsettling film it is… centring on the theme of (sorry – plot spoiler) Russian roulette!

This is what befalls our hero, 20 year-old immigrant Sebastien (George Babluani), trying to make an honest living – until he succumbs to temptation. Hired to repair the roof of Monsieur Godon (Philippe Passon), he overhears vague details of a get-rich-quick scheme. When Godon dies from a drug overdose, Sebastien takes his place not knowing what will befall him. Certainly a bold but horrendously rash move and also unbeknown to his family. Unfortunately he is the ‘player’ for a bizarrely themed gambling racquet and the wealthy, unscrupulous punters are betting on their player’s life – whether he’ll survive!

The movie if very well paced and quite slow going but surprisingly this works and complements the way Sebastien is increasingly drawn into the gambling den beyond the point of no return. The need for secrecy is startling obvious to the perpetrators due to the highly illegal nature of this high stakes game, but Sebastien by contrast is unaware of why his ‘contacts’ are being so careful and is also unaware of the pursuing police posse who is left floundering in their wake. I say contacts – they’re a pretty ruthless bunch. Thus as Sebastien is trying to ‘wing’ it he manages surprisingly well to even get to the final location and his entry into this underground world.

I’m not a big fan of black and white cinematography but it does add some starkness to a very tense and sad series of events that unfold with increasing pace as the game gets underway, mirrored by the heightened tension in the players as the stakes increase and the punters greed becomes ever more obscene.

The film is well acted especially from George Babluani and Aurelien Recoing. There’s also a surprising twist at the end which definitely leaves you feeling somewhat unsettled and saddened.

Nonetheless worth seeing if you like something different and macabre.

4 out of 6 stars