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By Jeremy Knox | August 14, 2007

When they work, films like “13 Beloved” are a joy to watch because the writing is such an intricate marvel. Forget the story, the acting, the plot, all of that and just appreciate the demonic craftsmanship that went behind the scenes in order to make this thing be effective. It’s like being able to groove to a song for the sheer technique rather than the melody, and if the melody’s good then that’s even better.

So what about “13 Beloved”? Can we groove to it? Can we dig it?

Yes we can.

As a writer I admire this sort of writing. It’s so simple and straightforward. There’s no mucking about with useless plotlines or meandering tangents. No, you grab the story and the plot, inform them firmly that they are now your bitch and throttle them forward in the direction that you want. Or, in this case what the writers did was place a protagonist in the middle of a Machiavellian labyrinth and force him to either find his way out or to go even further in; and watching the whole thing unravel is like witnessing a particularly good juggling act. If the filmmakers were idiots, then all the balls would drop to the ground and we’d have wasted our time; but when they’re good (as is the case here) it’s an experience like nothing else you’ve seen. I think what excited me the most was the sheer danger of the whole thing, literarily speaking; it’s so bloody easy to screw up a movie like this. You’ve no idea. One wrong line of dialogue, one too many characters, a little bit too much violence at the wrong time, and POOF! The whole thing goes a*s over teakettle down the drain.

So to see it work and work well, brings nothing but joy to my heart. And it’s a good thing too because this is one f****d up film. I don’t have to be psychic to predict that this film is going to twap people up the head much like “Ichi the Killer” or “Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance” once did; and twap them hard. I think the novelty is wearing off so it doesn’t quite pack the ultimate punch those movies once did, but it doesn’t matter because “13 Beloved” is a good movie for a lot more reasons than simply shock value.

We enter our twisted little tale by meeting a failing musical instrument salesman named Chit who’s managed to lose his job, his car and his girlfriend, all within a very short time span, and the constant pained look on his face lets us know that this is not sitting well with him, not at all. With bills piling up, his mother needing money and an overall feeling that all the sufferings of Job are about to fall upon his shoulders at any minute, things look bleak. Until, that is, he gets an impromptu phone call whereupon a cheerful voice informs our hero Chit that he’s been chosen to participate in a wonderful new type of contest. He will have to accomplish 13 tasks of increasing difficulty. Every time he succeeds an amount of money will be directly transferred into his bank account. For example: The first task, which is killing a fly, nets him $335 while the second task, which consists of eating the fly, makes him $1675 richer; and so forth. It gets worse from there. I won’t ruin the surprises, but it’s safe to say that the game makes Chit earn his money.

There are 3 rules: Number one, he can call off the contest at any time but if he does so he will lose all the money he’s earned. Number two, he can’t tell anyone he’s participating in this contest. Number three, the contest is null and void if he asks what the contest is about or tries to find out who’s behind all of this.

Director Chookiat Sakweerakul handles the material with the perfect balance of humor and seriousness. Never letting things get so grim that they become dreary, but never letting us forget that he’s not in the business of making us laugh either. Actor Krissada Terrence as Chit always humanizes the character even as he becomes colder and colder from playing the demented game. We always empathize with his plight.

I just wish I could talk about the themes of this film without spoiling anything, but I can’t. All I can say is that the themes of greed and morality are universal and that the last few scenes will haunt you because the film ends as it should with the proper justice being meted out.

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