A remake of a 2006 Thai thriller known in America as “13: Game of Death,” “13 Sins” is an implausible but agreeably pulpy (and occasionally bloody) B movie about a financially stressed young man (Mark Webber) in New Orleans who is recruited by a mysterious voice on his cellphone to participate in a secret “game” of “13 challenges” that will enable him to win millions of dollars.
The challenges initially are simply gross (eat a fly) or mean (“Make a child cry”). Predictably, they become increasingly disturbing and criminal, attracting the attention of a police detective (Ron Perlman) and causing strife with the young man’s fiancée (Rutina Wesley of “True Blood”), his “Rain Man” brother (Devon Graye) and his racist father (Tom Bower). “Try to think of this in the most positive, empowering way as a gun pointed to your head,” says the voice on the phone, which belongs to a man who seems to be omnipotent and omniscient.
Director Daniel Stamm (“The Last Exorcism”) manages one memorable set piece, involving a motorcycle gang and a clothes line. More often, the direction is simply functional, to balance a story as fanciful as those penned in an earlier age by Edgar Wallace and Cornell Woolrich. The film’s ideal viewer is probably a 12-year-old boy, who will enjoy imagining “challenges” for himself and his friends, and who won’t be bothered by the absurdity of the premise, the cheapness of the “shock” twists or the direct-to-VOD esthetic. (The movie is available on demand as well as in theaters.) Other ideal viewers include film theory majors, who can add “13 Sins” to “Non-Stop,” “Cellular” and “The Call” in their term papers about post-9/11 telephone anxiety.
Rated R for violence, bloody images and profanity,