13 Dead Men (2003)- * *
Directed by: Art Camacho
Starring: Lorenzo Lamas, David Weininger, Ashley Tucker, Shalena Hughes, and Mystikal
Malachi (Tucker) is in prison. But it's not just any prison, of course. It's run by the corrupt warden Kowalski (Weininger) and his obedient gang of corrections officers. Kowalski stages illegal Punchfights, but he also has his own personal death row where he executes inmates at will (those are the '13 Dead Men' of the title). The Van Peebles-esque Malachi just wants to serve out his sentence as peacefully as possible, but he's put in a cell next to Caj (Mystikal), the Top Dog of the facility who enjoys beating up everyone in sight.
Meanwhile, on the outside, Santos (Lamas) and his girlfriend Jay'me (Hughes) are diamond thieves and they know Malachi has the secret that would lead to a valuable cache of diamonds. So they assemble a team to break Malachi out of prison. They better do it fast, because Malachi just may be on the chopping block. It all comes to a head during a final battle where all hell breaks loose in jail. Will Malachi be the fourteenth Dead Man? And who is this mysterious Cornbread character we've heard so much about? Could he be the key to everything?
13 Dead Men is the perfect movie to watch if you enjoy watching Mystikal repeatedly punch people.
Of course, while some people may argue that that's not the true meaning of the cinematic arts, we would humbly suggest that for 13 Dead Men II that they bring on board Kurupt, C-Murder, Silkk The Shocker, Mr. Ballin Big and others and do a "Black Expendables" sort of thing. It could be huge.
As a director, Art Camacho is a great stunt coordinator. He delivers "urban" action on a very low budget this time around. The artwork (and a lot of the plot) may remind you of Half Past Dead (2002), but instead of Seagal and Ja Rule, we get Lamas and Mystikal. What's the saying? Six of one, half-dozen of the other? Although the aforementioned Kurupt was in Half Past Dead. Couldn't they get him for this?
Anyway, the main problem with 13 Dead Men is that it's a "prison plot" we've seen countless times before. It's more or less a Broken Bars (1995) for the 00's. Or maybe a Bloodfist III: Forced to Fight (1992), Death Warrant (1990), In Hell (2003), Vendetta (2015), etc., etc. It has the same old evil warden we've all come to expect. None of the above could ever match the majesty of Tony Zarindast's Hardcase and Fist (1989). That's the best of the bunch. It has Warden Borden and Beano. So what hope does 13 Dead Men have?
That being said, it is an epic of shirtlessness. There are many shirtless men in this movie, many of which are not in the best of shape. Even Mystikal whips off his shirt at the drop of a hat. Overall, though, the problem with prison films is that they primarily take place in one location. One drab, visually uninteresting location. So things start to get repetitive quick. The main problem with 13 Dead Men is that it's not only very repetitive, it's also relentlessly stupid. A lot of what we see is overlaid with the Godsmack/Linkin Park-esque musical stylings of a band called Crucial Element. If anything dates the movie to 2003, it's that. And we were having a hard enough time trying to decipher the semi-intelligible Mystikal. It was a rocky time back then.
With just a little less repetition and slightly more intelligence, 13 Dead Men could have risen above the morass of all the other Homie Movies. Lamas does what he can but there's only so much any one man can do, even him. As it is, you'd really have to be a fan of any of the personnel involved or an ardent devotee of the Homie Movie genre to want to go out of your way to check it out. Sadly, we honestly can't recommend 13 Dead Men otherwise.
Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty