Chukiat Sakveerakul and Eakasit Thairatana
Krissada Terrence as Phuchit
Achita Wuthinounsurasit as Tong
Sarunyu Wongkrachang as Surachai
Nattapong Arunnate as Mik
Phuchit (Krissada Terrence) has a problem… quite a few actually. He’s just lost his famous songstress girlfriend, he’s massively in debt, his car’s just been repossessed, his mother keeps borrowing money from him, and he just lost his job as a salesman because a coworker keeps purposely stealing his clients out from under him. Even the sympathy of what appears to be his only friend, his co-worker Tong (Achita Wuthinounsurasit), is of no help. Suddenly, while sitting in the stairwell lamenting the state of his existence, he receives a cell phone call that will change his life forever.
The mystery man on the line tells Puchit he’s been selected after much research from other candidates of “need” to play a game for fabulous prizes and cash. Puchit initially resists, but the man on the line knows an extensive amount about him, right down to the exact Baht amount of debt he has and the fact that he had been fired minutes earlier. The voice offers him 10,000 Baht if he kills a fly that’s been buzzing around his head for the last few minutes with a newspaper that has appeared behind him. In a purposely over-dramatic scene, Puchit does so and is rewarded within moments. The phone immediately rings again. Now Puchit’s been offered 50,000 Baht… to eat the dead fly. After much deliberation, he does this as well and is again instantly rewarded.
The mystery voice then calls a third time and explains the rules. Puchit can win 100 million Baht if he completes 13 challenges that will be set before him (the two fly challenges being the first two). Every successive challenge is worth more money, but failure to complete a challenge ends the game,which results in a complete withdrawal of all money from his account. He’s also told he can manually stop the game at any time by just saying he wants to, that the game will end if anyone else finds out he’s playing, and that he also forfeits if he tries to find out who’s in charge of the game. He then must choose whether to play… Guess what he picks.
Thus, after his “parting words for his colleagues” (i.e. decking the guy who kept stealing his sales), the game begins in earnest. His first new challenge takes him to a park with a playground, where he’s told he’ll win 100,000 Baht if he makes three children cry. He tries to do this by shoving a kid to the ground… which is when he makes the unfortunate discovery that many of the children happen to be wearing martial arts garb and proceed to latch on to him. He does succeed though by inadvertently stepping on a toy and then stealing a toy from another kid. Unfortunately for Puchit, two women see him doing this and proceed to the police and report his actions… the same place where the coworker he decked is trying to file assault charges. Needless to say, the police’s interest is piqued by the double crime.
The challenges take a far more sinister, far less ethical turn shortly thereafter, and Tong begins to worry about his well-being and look into his strange actions. What will Puchit do in the name of money and how far will he be pushed?
13 Game of Death is a unique hybrid of the thriller, action, horror, and comedy genres. Puchit’s tasks become more violent and more illegal as the movie goes on, causing him trouble with both the challenges themselves and the added variable of the cops hunting for him. The film moves BLAZINGLY fast with little to no wasted time , ramping up the tension and holding the viewers on the edge of their seat. Several of the tasks end up taking spectacularly grisly turns and another is one of the more disgusting things I’ve seen simulated in a movie (though, sadly and ironically, I’ve also seen the idea simulated on a reality show). Finally, 13 Game of Death is blessed with a dark humor seen in the hysterical interactions between some characters as well as in a few of the challenges. One, involving a steel chair, literally made me laugh out loud when I saw it. The soundtrack launches into strangely peppy segments occasionally that are rather amusing, and there is a light touch of drama as Puchit flashes back to some of the worst moments in his childhood as the film goes on.
Terrence’s performance in the lead role is the primary reason 13 Game of Death works. Through early conversations with his mother and a few scenes that establish him as kind of meek and reserved, you get a feel for just how much of a “momma’s boy” he is and how, on many of these challenges, his decisions really are about deep, substantive breaks with the way he usually acts. Terrence is effective in all facets of the film, from comedic segments to violent fights.
If the movie has any flaws they are believability and an aspect of the ending. Some of the challenges are so complex, so intricate, and so reliant on a certain event happening at a certain time that it can seem ludicrous at times. Interestingly though, because of how compelling Terrence’s performance is and how each challenge and each aspect of 13 Game of Death leads into the next and also interlays and weaves in with earlier events, it is easy to ignore this and get caught up in the action.
13 Game of Death does suffer from a classic flaw of movies of this type the concept that you’ve spent an hour and 45 minutes watching Puchit tackle this event only to reach a moment in the ending (I’m trying to avoid spoilers as best I can here) that boils down to “how dare you exploit Puchit like that?” I personally had minimal problems with this because a separate aspect of the ending surprised me so much that I was able to forgive the light preachiness. However, it’s still pretty hypocritical to suck the viewer into watching this “event” and then basically indirectly scold them for doing so. I know it will be some viewers’ pet peeve.
Overall 13 Game of Death is a fantastic, exciting, and often darkly funny film with interesting characters and an engaging storyline. It’s relevant both as a commentary on human nature and morality, and as a statement about our reality TV-obsessed culture. Don’t say no to playing this game.