When I walked out of the Roxie in July after watching A Serbian Film I stood on the sidewalk trying to process what I'd just watched and after a few minutes I noticed another guy trying to do the same. Eventually we nodded to one another and started discussing the film. During our conversation he said the last film that he found that compelling was a movie called 13 Tzameti (2005). He didn't tell me the plot- he just said it was a film that stuck with him for awhile and he was sure A Serbian Film was going to be even harder to get out of his head. Based on those comments of course I knew I had to see it. Tonight I watched it and while it's certainly not as devastating as what we saw that night, it's a damn taut thriller which happens to have an American remake with a pretty interesting cast in the can awaiting release.
The promising cast of the remake features Mickey Rourke, Jason Statham, 50 Cent and Ben Gazzara among a host of others and fortunately the talented original's director Gela Babluani is at the helm. However, I think the original French/Georgian film will be of interest to any fan of very dark thrillers and it's easier to watch a film like this when the cast in unfamiliar.
The plot is simple: a broke young man assumes the identity of a dead man to participate in something about which he only knows has the potential for a very large financial pay-off. When he shows up for the "job" he finds out he's about to be one of thirteen players in a game of Russian roulette where the odds of survival are stacked against the participants and worsen with each round. Watching this play out live is a roomful of very wealthy gamblers who are betting obscene stakes on the outcome of a ridiculous game of chance,
Shot in black and white with a cast of talented and unique actors, superbly edited and a plot as straight as a bullet's trajectory, I recommend this highly and it's available on Netflix. Not high on the gore factor, but pretty violent and very suspenseful. It won the Sundance Grand Jury award among a host of other prestigious prizes. I somehow doubt the remake will be as good, but I'll definitely be seeing it. In the meantime, put this at the top of your queue. The dvd has an extra short on it called "Sunday Games" that is worth watching and that's all I'm going to say about it except "Wow, how did you guys come up with that idea and how did you talk all of those old ladies into actually appearing in it?"
The image below, with two men facing each other with guns pointing at each another's heads, has been done ad nauseam ever since I saw it the first time in John Woo's action masterpiece The Killers. 13 Tzameti is the first film since then where I've seen this done and thought to myselfthis time it's real, it makes sense- they're not just ripping off Woo's signature face-off. See it. [Update 2016: I did see the remake, and while it's good, try to see the original.]