Sunday, September 13, 2015

Triskaidekaphilia: '513 Degrees' (2013)

On the 13th of each month, I write about a movie whose title contains the number 13. 

Also known as Five Thirteen (one title appears at the beginning of the movie, the other at the end), 513 Degrees is a hilariously incompetent thriller with a cast full of straight-to-video all-stars (Tom Sizemore, Bokeem Woodbine, Taryn Manning, Steven Bauer, Danny Trejo, Costas Mandylor), alongside such random faces as Dave Stewart of the Eurythmics and fashion designer Christian Audigier (also one of the producers). None of those people play the main characters, though; that job falls to relative unknowns Malik Barnhardt and Avelawance Phillips, who star as brothers Tre and Mike, respectively. Both of them have criminal pasts that they are trying to leave behind, and they find themselves on two separate jobs that don't intersect until the end of the movie, and even then it's unclear how they're connected. Pretty much everything in this movie is unclear, though, despite frequent scenes of characters explaining things to each other. Characters show up, do something seemingly important, then disappear, often never to be seen again.

The disjointed plot mostly switches between Tre and Mike, though, with occasional detours to follow supporting characters of dubious importance. Mike, newly released from prison for a crime he didn't commit, nevertheless eagerly signs up to be part of a bank-robbery crew led by the clearly unhinged Glen (Sizemore), who matter-of-factly states, "I've killed many people" when introducing himself. Meanwhile, Tre goes on what he hopes will be his last job for the equally sinister Nestor (Woodbine), traveling to Mexico to deliver a sack of cash to a crime lord known, of course, as El Loco (Trejo). It turns out that the cash is payment for a pair of kidneys that Tre and his partner are meant to transport back to LA in a cooler (which seems ill-equipped to keep the organs viable during a long trip through the hot desert). But Tre is reluctant to participate in this job ("I'm not down with no kidneys!" he whines), which only gets more complicated as it goes along.

That applies to the movie as a whole, which becomes more and more convoluted as it brings in more characters and tries to deliver some shocking plot twists. None of it makes much sense, and the only pleasure comes from watching actors like Sizemore (who's like later-period Al Pacino on crack) and Woodbine chew the scenery, making the best of their meager paycheck-cashing parts. The less experienced actors don't fare as well, often either overacting melodramatically or stopped dead by the dialogue from director and co-writer Kader Ayd. Ayd is French, which may account for some of the awkward writing, although presumably the plot is incomprehensible in any language.

The story wraps up with various seemingly unrelated plot threads coming together half-heartedly in a way that Ayd clearly thinks is incredibly profound, but is mostly just sloppy. Manning's character, who appears in two brief scenes early in the movie and then isn't mentioned at all for the next hour, suddenly becomes the catalyst for the story's climax, even as other characters who'd gotten much more screentime end up with no resolution whatsoever. Tre ties it all together with a nonsensical pseudo-philosophical voiceover (with a strained explanation of the title), then has an emotional reunion with a character whom we've never seen before. That pretty much sums up this movie's vision.