(2005)3.5Derek Armstrong13 Tzameti has a chilling, electrifying central showpiece, but it lacks the plot mechanics to deliver an equivalent sense of dramatic tension. There's plenty of the regular kind of tension -- sometimes more than a viewer can handle -- but it's restricted to certain contained moments of wincing intensity. And because it's driven more by the situation than the characters, it's visceral and surface-level, rather than emotionally resonant. Writer-director Géla Babluani has made an impeccable homage to the French New Wave with his black-and-white thriller about a 13-person game of Russian roulette, gambled on by the rich, in which participants become involved somewhat unwittingly. The Georgian filmmaker uses his outsider perspective to bring a unique touch to the French-language film, making for a memorable experience that recalls classic New Wave films. 13 Tzameti is so rich with style and atmosphere, however, that the story ends up not quite living up to its potential. The viewer's surrogate (played by the director's younger brother) is a guy we don't know much about -- he's an opportunistic contractor who's about to be stiffed for services rendered, so he steals his employer's invitation to a game he knows nothing about. He doesn't have a goal other than to be compensated, and to get out alive. Babluani masterfully controls each moment of truth -- cutting away to the participants' faces, destroyed by anxiety, and to a bulb that illuminates when it's time to pull the trigger -- but by following one character at the expense of all others, he inevitably removes some uncertainty about each outcome. Fans probably won't care too deeply about any narrative shortcomings, since the French New Wave was not particularly a plot-driven movement, anyway. 13 Tzameti has the stylistic trademarks and the bleak world view to make it a shining modern example of that form.