13 (Tzameti)

SHOT IN THE DARK One player tests his luck.
SHOT IN THE DARK One player tests his luck.

Time Out says

A dastardly nugget of neonoir nastiness, Georgian director Gla Babluani’s debut starts out with a Hitchcock-worthy premise: An immigrant handyman (George Babluani, the director’s brother) in France, desperate for income, takes a job that involves fixing the roof of a gentleman (Passon) in ill health. Shady characters come and go, lurking about the perimeter of the house or asking enigmatic questions: something about a letter, a business opportunity, a mint to be made. When the client dies before paying him, the worker takes the mysterious document and passes himself off as the recipient. The young man is given a number—lucky 13—and an address. He shows up. And then...

Those unfortunate viewers who’ve been exposed to the film’s spoilsport trailer may have an idea of what comes next (nice job, Palm Pictures). It’s a pity, since a good deal of the film’s currency relies on the audience not knowing what the last piece in this puzzle is any more than our hapless hero does; suffice to say, the revelation involves gambling, guts and a most dangerous game. This little follow-the-MacGuffin mystery suddenly twists itself into a nightmarish dip into the dread pool, which the claustrophobic compositions, harsh black-and-white cinematography and director’s talent for drawing out tension accentuate to the nth degree. You can guess the outcome of the final act once the wheels start turning, but the pitch-black fun of 13 (Tzameti) is less about unpredictability and more about Babluani’s expertise—and snickering glee—in turning the screws. (Opens Fri; Film Forum.) — David Fear



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