The Film Gang

13 Sins

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Listen to the review by Dennis Morton above, and read transcript below.


In a recent conversation with a friend, I mentioned that I’d just watched 13 Sins. I gave him a rundown of the movie, and he said – sounds a lot like The Magic Christian.
So, I looked up a précis of The Magic Christian, which was released in 1969, and sure enough, the over arching theme seems to be similar.

In the older film, Peter Sellers plays a bazillionaire who is convinced that everyone has a price – that is, offered enough cash, anyone will abandon his or her scruples. Ringo Starr plays Sellers’ adopted son, and watches Dad purchase just about any behavior he wants. This, apparently, is meant to be a valuable life lesson for the son. Though I’ve not seen it, I understand that The Magic Christian is an unabashed comedy.

Well, 13 Sins could be described as a comedy, too, but of a far darker sort. And there are also more than a few shocking scenes.

13 Sins opens with a long shot, from the air, of Perth, Australia. Next we are in a ballroom, decked out with dozens of posh dinner tables populated by obviously upper class folks. The camera lets us know that an older gentleman is about to be called to the podium, to receive some honor or other. He rises, and with a look of discomfort, commences to recite an off-color poem. There are ripples of modest laughter. He follows with another, even more off-color rhyme. This time there is dismay throughout the ballroom. The hostess rises and attempts to escort him from the podium. His response is to pick up a steak knife and slice off her finger. Pandemonium ensues. A security guard is soon on the scene. The old timer reaches into his suit pocket and pulls something out. Guessing that it’s a gun, the security guard shoots him. With his dying breath, and now on the floor and bleeding profusely, the old timer reaches for what turns out to be –
a cell phone.

Cut. A long shot, from the air, of New Orleans. And then, a map of the world, with wires attached to nail-like posts that pierce the major cities of the globe. Some of the posts are topped with small demon’s heads.

Cut again. We are now in New Orleans. A young guy named Elliot, and his pregnant fiancé, are playing kissy face. They’re excited. Elliot has been called to meet with the head honcho of the insurance company he works for. They’re anticipating a raise. Cut to the meeting and we watch Elliot getting fired. He’d sold an elderly client a policy she could afford, rather than an unnecessary and more expensive one.

Elliot drives home. Forlorn, and stuck at a red light that won’t turn green, he is startled out of his funk by his cell phone. An intriguing voice offers him the chance to play a game of 13 challenges. For each challenge completed successfully, an ever larger sum of moolah will be deposited into his bank account. But, each challenge will be correspondingly more difficult. Elliot accepts.

Challenge 1: kill a fly. Challenge 2: eat the fly. Challenge 3: make a child cry. We are, at this point, only eight or nine minutes into the film. We get a sense of where it’s going, but not how we’ll all get there. And that’s the fun of it.

13 Sins is dark and often weirdly funny. I enjoyed it. Perhaps you will too.

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