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Dorff, Kilmer star in political thriller 'XIII'

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Stephen Dorff (left) and Val Kilmer star in Phase 4 Films thriller 'XIII: The Conspiracy'.
(Courtesy of Phase 4 Films)
"XIII: The Conspiracy," starring Stephen Dorff and Val Kilmer, is a nice little political thriller that begins with a bang and keeps the twists and turns going until the final frame. It's a two-episode mini-series that debuted in France in 2008 and in the States in 2009.

The film is based on a comic book series and game of the same name and revolves around the mysterious XIII (Dorff), who has no memory of who he is, but is wanted for the assassination of the first female president in U.S. history. He's known as XIII due to a tattoo he bears. XIII pieces together his past, only to learn that his past might not truly be his.

He befriends Sam (Caterina Murino), a photo expert who owns her own shop and who decides to help him find out his true identity. He gets an address through Sam from a photo he has and once inside he finds newspaper clippings that have his picture and a bundle of cash hidden in the heating duct of the apartment. He's quickly ambushed and must flee, but not before finding a cryptic message on the back of a photo that leads him to yet another revelation regarding his past.

XIII, General Carrington (Stephen McHattie) and Jones soon find out that with election day rapidly approaching, the same secret society that branded him is also planning an attack on a polling station somewhere in Maryland. At a decommissioned military facility in Montana, XIII discovers that the attack is going to be nuclear in nature and the trio must race to prevent the attack from happening.

The plan hits a snag when Carrington is arrested for high treason by a directive from Wax (Jonathan Higgins), a society member and newly appointed leader, to bring in XIII.

With the attack prevented, a new president in place and everything seemingly in order, XIII receives news that sets off another series of flashbacks that prompt him to leave us with "We're going back."

Overall, I found XIII to be an OK watch. It's a little uneven, but for the most part it kept my interest and it had a very intriguing storyline that keeps you guessing most of the time.

Dorff does a nice job as the title character, conveying the confusion, anger and ultimately dejection he feels. He does more than most could have done with what he was given.

On the other hand, there's my man Val Kilmer. Oh, my, what are we going to do with you, Mr. Kilmer? Truly one of my favorite actors, lately he's been missing the mark. In XIII, you never see that glimmer of brilliance that we all know he has. We see an actor going through the motions and never, it seems, willing or wanting to make a connection with the material or audience. A very underwhelming performance.

As far as extra goodies on the disc, I hope you like green screen and a lot of it. One feature shows Dorff and a female castmate performing a run-and-jump stunt with green screen and wires -- for 14 minutes. I wish they would have spent a little time exploring the story and giving some insight into its evolution through the process. But, alas, we have nothing.

Final Cut: The longer XIII goes, the more you'll find yourself sucked into the story. It's no "Clear and Present Danger," but it is a nice political thriller that packs more of a punch that you'd expect.

3.5 out of 5 stars

XIII: The Conspiracy

Starring: Stephen Dorff, Val Kilmer, Jessalyn Gilsig, Stephen McHattie

Director: Duane Clark

Runtime: 136 min.

MPAA Rating: R for violence

Available now on DVD adn Blu-ray from Phase 4 Films.


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