Elliot Brindle, a meek salesman, loses his job despite his debt and the people who depend on him: Michael, his mentally handicapped brother; Shelby, his pregnant fiancee; and an unnamed, abusive father. Elliot receives a mysterious phone call that offers him $1,000 to assertively kill a fly that has been harassing him. After Elliot checks his bank account online and sees that he has been credited, he accepts the next challenge: to eat the dead fly. The caller explains that he will be offered a series of thirteen challenges, each of which will result in greater rewards. If he fails to complete any of them, interfere in the game, or reveals the game, he will forfeit all the money.
The next few challenges attract police attention: making a child cry, arson, and scamming a homeless person. When the child identifies Elliot in the police station based on wanted posters, Detective Chilcoat takes over the case. Shelby becomes concerned about Elliot's secretive and odd behavior, and he explains that he is planning a surprise. For his sixth challenge, Elliot is forced to take a corpse out for coffee. Given a strict deadline, Elliot panics and brazenly steals a cup of coffee from a police officer. Elliot is credited with two challenges for his bold behavior after he threatens to file a complaint about the officer's public intoxication.
After he flees the scene, the caller tells Elliot that he has left behind evidence; however, if he wins the game, his record will be purged. At the same time, Chilcoat tracks a conspiracy theorist that has been investigating the game. Paranoid, the man flees Chilcoat but advises him to kill Elliot at his first opportunity. For his next challenge, Elliot receives no instructions and is taken to a rural motel. There, a man identifies himself as a former childhood bully, and the caller tells Elliot to sever the man's arm. Elliot initially refuses but does so once the man taunts him. After driving the man to the hospital, Elliot savagely beats the man's brother, who was also involved in bullying Elliot and Michael, and once urinated on Michael's face. As a result, he is credited with two more completed challenges.
When the police arrive at the banquet hall where Elliot and Shelby are having their rehearsal dinner, Elliot is surprised to discover that they are interested in Michael. To give Michael time to escape, he accepts his next challenge, to destroy the banquet hall while singing The Internationale. Disappointed in his reluctance to break social norms, the caller instructs Elliot to surrender to the police, from whom Elliot learns that another person has been playing the game. Elliot takes and accidentally wounds a hostage to escape and complete the game before the other competitor. As he escapes, he leaves behind his cell phone. Desperate, he takes an old woman hostage when she shows up, sure that she is involved in his next challenge.
After feigning ignorance, the old woman reveals his next challenge: to set a stainless steel wire across the road. Elliot is horrified when he realizes that a group of bikers have been instructed to speed down the road. Although he disarms the trap in time, the other competitor rearms the trap, and the cyclists are decapitated. Disgusted, Elliot quits the game, and, when he returns home, discovers that Michael is the other competitor. Michael reveals that the final challenge is to kill a family member. Although Elliot originally tries to talk Michael out of killing their father, Elliot becomes homicidal when their father reveals he won the game by killing their mother. To prevent his sons from experiencing the horror of winning the game, their father commits suicide.
However, Michael refuses to stop playing the game and attempts to kill Elliot. Elliot kills Michael in self-defense, though he is stabbed multiple times. Elliot is credited for his final challenge, but he forfeits all the money when he interferes with the game by killing Chilcoat, who has murdered the conspiracy theorist and has now arrived to clean up the crime scene. Later, Elliot learns that Shelby has declined to play the game, and he collapses laughing.Mark Webber as Elliot
Devon Graye as Michael, Elliot's challenged brother
Tom Bower as Father, Elliot and Michael's unnamed father.
Rutina Wesley as Shelby, Elliot's pregnant fiancée.
Ron Perlman as Chilcoat
George Coe as Game Voice
Pruitt Taylor Vince as Vogler
The themes of the film were written to reflect drug addiction, and Stamm used a drug addiction specialist to emphasize those parallels in Elliot's character arc. Stamm wanted Elliot to grow assertive and strong, then slowly become addicted to both the game and his new persona, which causes him to not notice the increasingly negative effects on his life. Two endings were shot: a more upbeat ending and a highly nihilistic ending. The alternate ending is available on the Blu-ray release. Jason Blum bought the rights to 13: Game of Death and offered the remake to Stamm, who enjoyed the original film. The studio gave him complete freedom, which Stamm said allowed him to explore his interpretation of the film and tweak tasks that he felt did not work. Perlman did not see the original film, as he did not want it to influence his performance. Several of the tasks are new; Stamm wanted to include enough new content to keep fans of the original film interested in the remake while retaining the original film's most iconic tasks. For the story, Stamm was influenced by Falling Down, which he said invited the audience to identify with a protagonist who becomes increasingly assertive, only to reveal later that he is "a racist and dangerous". Stamm wanted the actors to feel comfortable with each other and their roles, so he had them perform improvisational scenes together. Although initially eager to show off for the sake of impressing Perlman, of whom he is a fan, Stamm eventually backed off and allowed the actors to improvise their lines during filming, too.
13 Sins premiered at SXSW on March 7, 2014. It was released to video on demand March 14 and theatrically April 18, 2014, in the United States. It was released on DVD and Blu-ray on June 17, 2014.
Rotten Tomatoes, a review aggregator, reports that 63% of 40 surveyed critics gave the film a positive review; the average rating was 5.8/10. Metacritic rated it 44/100 based on eleven reviews.
Variety wrote that it "achieves a modest degree of tension and dark humor before it unravels." Fearnet wrote that the film's greatest weakness was its similarity to earlier films, but that overall "there's more than enough here for a 'psychological horror' fan to get behind." The Austin Chronicle was more positive in their review, in which they said that the movie would have a wide appeal to both genre and mainstream viewers.
Jeannette Catsoulis of The New York Times wrote, "A study of desperation and the evil within, Daniel Stamm's 13 Sins is an empty, efficient thriller that leaves you as cold as most of its characters." Martin Tsai of the Los Angeles Times called it "a Saw knock-off without the torture porn". Staci Layne Wilson of Dread Central rated it 3/5 stars and called it "a fun enough time waster".
Bears Fonté of AMFM Magazine said the film was the best of all the midnighters at SXSW and "provides a nice commentary on materialism and ease at which someone will shed their carefully crafted image when provided with a chance to score some cash." Patrick Cooper of Bloody Disgusting rated it 3/5 stars and wrote that it is "tonally uneven" but "darkly comic".