’13 Tzameti’ is quiet, yet deadly good

George Babluani stars in '13 Tzameti'
George Babluani stars in ’13 Tzameti’

Thrillers in Europe are so often different than thrillers here in the United States. Here you’re given kinetic cuts, harsh music and intense dialogue. In Europe, very often, thrillers are much more calm. The editing is deliberate, but not MTV-like. You don’t always get music, and the actors speak like it’s just another day when a gun is pressed to their temple.

I’m not saying one method is better than the other, because both can work. It’s just been my experience that European films aren’t afraid to be different, and I respect that. 13 Tzameti is one of those quiet films, and it works.

The story finds Sébastien (George Babluani) working to repair a roof on a house belonging to the drug-addicted Jean-François Godon (Philippe Passon). Desperate for money, he over hears that Godon will be taking part in something that, if he makes it, will net him a pile of dough. He is merely waiting for a mysterious letter to arrive. But when Godon dies of an accidental overdose, Sébastien steals the letter and follows the obscure directions inside. Those directions lead him to a dark form of game where losing means you’re dead.

Now, there is one thing I didn’t like about this movie. The advertising campaign. Personally, I think it reveals far too much. I’m not ruining anything when I say that the game Sébastien goes to play is an organized form of Russian roulette. Just think about The Deer Hunter, on a larger scale. This is what you see in the trailer. But I can’t quite understand why the producers of this flick would want to tell you that.

I posted a news article about this flick the other day showing the film’s poster. And I said then, before seeing the movie, that it seemed as if the blurb told you too much about the film. I then watched the trailer, which basically tells you the same amount. But I had the strange feeling as if the film was treating this part of the story as a bit of a mystery. And it does. You don’t find out what exactly Sébastien has gotten himself into until about 30 minutes or more into the film. Now, if the reveal comes that late in the movie, why on Earth would you ruin it? I don’t understand that.

Either way, 13 Tzameti is still excellent. It moves at a careful pace, and honestly the less you know about it the more you’re likely going to enjoy it. The scenes during the roulette games are tense and wonderfully done. There’s none of the absurd gore you’re likely to see in the planned American version.

The film is also shot in black and white, which I am a great fan of. However, I felt as if it didn’t take advantage of the lack of color in terms of the camera work and cinematography. I get it was an indie film, so that probably limited the filmmakers in certain ways, but if you’re going to shoot in black and white then you should revel in it. Use the contrast and the shadows. This film didn’t do that, and it was a little disappointing, visually.

13 Tzameti is still a smartly told, carefully paced thriller that was very well done and entertaining. A film worthy of your time and $10.50.

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