13 Dead Men (2003)
“Sentencing to die, fighting to live”
Director: Art Camacho
Cast: Lorenzo Lamas, Mark Parra, Mystikal
Synopsis: Set in a prison, a death row inmate has a secret and the warden will go to any lengths to get it.
Damn, this is a bad film. This is a bad film. This is a bad, bad film. This film shows other films that think they’re bad how far they are from being truly bad. Everything about this film — apart from a couple of the actors — is truly bad. The title of this film should be entered into dictionaries as the definition of bad: Bad (boed) adj. worse, worst. 1. 13 Dead Men (2003).
The film’s story — what there is of it — revolves around Malachi (Ashley Tucker), a death row prisoner with a secret that the sadistic prison warden is attempting to systematically beat out of him. The warden is racing against time, though, because Malachi’s execution is in two weeks. So, when secret-squirrel Malachi refuses to spill, the warden brings forward the date of his execution, prompting Malachi, who was previously looking forward to the end of the fortnight, to contact his buddies on the outside to come and spring him..
Yeah, I know: it doesn’t make much sense when you’re watching it, either.
The movie’s opening shot is of a man being beaten; it’s next scene is of another man being beaten; about ninety seconds later we see a different man being beaten by the same man who beat the second man; ninety seconds after that we see yet another man being beaten by the same guy. After twenty minutes the fight count was so high it was impossible to keep count. And all of it played out to the jarring bumpity-grind of urban gangsta rap music. Poor old Malachi is the recipient of so many of these gleefully sadistic beatings that it is nothing short of a miracle that he’s still walking around after fifteen minutes, let alone eighty-five.
Every so often, writers Art Camacho and Joel Newman remember that they’re supposed to be squeezing a story in between the fights, and chuck in some hastily concocted plot developments that defy both logic and belief. Lamas and his squeeze are introduced robbing something like a post-office (it’s never made clear); they stroll from their heist and climb into the car they have parked directly outside, confident that the clerk won’t make them or the car because they told him to drop his pants and count to one hundred. Santo (Lorenzo Lamas) ‘gets the gang back together’ to spring Malachi, even though they are both borderline psychopaths who hate each other, and would be a liability on a shoplifting expedition let alone a prison break (they embark on a lung-bursting argument as soon as they steal into the prison, not caring that they would have alerted every guard within five-hundred yards were they not living in Camacho-land). It goes on: one character, shaping up to play a major part early in the picture is dispatched off-screen, and the warden has one of his guards take his secretary/girlfriend down to the cells to see the result — apparently just for the hell of it. The prison guards — with the exception of the sole woman — are all sadistic henchmen of the warden, while the prisoners and thieves are, of course, all basically decent guys under their gruff exterior.
What else? Oh yeah, the acting. The acting ranges from the excruciating to the passable: Mark Parra, as Lamas’ edgy sidekick (and the movie’s stunt co-ordinator) passes muster, as does Mia Riverton as a sympathetic prison guard, and Shalena Hughes as Lamas’ girlfriend. Lamas (the biggest name in this movie) is cardboard, but he is a veritable Olivier when compared to the excruciatingly bad performance from David Weininger as the psychotic warden.
What else? Oh yeah, the script. In the ‘making of’ featurette on the UK DVD, one of the actors briefly holds up his script to the camera. It looks like an old school exercise book — you know the kind: cheap paper, twenty-four faint blue horizontal lines, one vertical red margin line — with the front cover torn off. It is a bad script. It is a script with no redeeming features whatsoever. It is nothing more than cliched, poorly constructed sentences that serve as nothing more than the filling between a never-ending stream of profanity. Every black character in this movie utters the word ‘man’ in every sentence he speaks. Camacho and Newman clearly believe ‘man’ is a very cool word. That and f**k (and every imaginable variation thereof).
What else? Oh yeah, the fights. Considering this movie is directed by a man with over thirty ‘fight choreographer/co-ordinator’ credits to his name, some of the fights in this flick look just a little shabby. Perhaps, given their sheer number, it’s inevitable that the odd sub-standard fisticuffs is going to sneak in, but I can’t remember seeing a movie in which so many punches are so obviously pulled. This is strictly WWF stuff, fooling only the very young (who shouldn’t be watching anyway), and the retarded.
What else? Oh yeah, the women. Rape fodder, pure and simple; they serve no purpose other than to provide the sexual meat to feed the bondage fantasies of the assumed target audience of testosterone-filled geeks with no friends and poor personal hygiene.
What else? Oh y— ah, forget it: life’s too short, and this movie has already received more words than it deserves. In fact, I’m starting to feel like one of those prison guards beating up on the helpless Malachi…