Judge David Johnson never leaves home without his twenty-sided die.
In this game the odds are deadly.
Dice and murder combine in this suspense film that just can't land the seven or eleven.
Facts of the Case
A group of strangers, seemingly unconnected, are kidnapped and brought to a dark, hidden facility, lorded over by an apparent madman. Behind the heavy glass of their cells, the prisoners are forced to watch their jailer force their comrades into a lethal game of chance: a roll of the dice will seal the fate of someone. While they try to stay alive and perhaps formulate a way to escape, a detective on the outside kicks off an investigation into the disappearances, which will lead her to a secret much larger than a lone psycho.
First things first: Die is not torture porn. Despite the marketing crew's best efforts to design a disc that screams "watch some dude get strapped to a metal chair and stabbed with knives for 90 minutes," this outing most definitely falls into the category of "suspense horror." Which means, of course, "fairly bloodless" and "a slow-moving pace."
Initially, the set-up is grabby. Strangers awaking in a mysterious prison, systematically mind-F'ed by a whacko, a few meeting unsightly ends? Not bad. But after the first couple of dice rolls, the scenario starts to unravel and the hook loses its sting. The real-time events of the film are broken up with flashbacks to round out the characters and give hints as to why they were chosen for these depraved experiments. The most recognizable actor here is Elias Koteas (The Thin Red Line) and he's the de facto main character. He's also given the most interesting back story, which isn't saying too much, because all of the back stories tend to be forgettable. Once the theme tying the prisoners together is revealed, the flashbacks sort of tread water.
Most disappointing are the reveals surrounding the bad guy and his intentions. Kudos for showing him right off the bat, versus leaving his face shrouded in darkness or echoing his disembodied voice over a scratchy loudspeaker. No, we get the full banana from the get-go and, like the movie itself, the startup tends to be whole lot more engaging than the follow-through. Eventually, our villain's schtick gets tiresome and his motivations hard to swallow, even as the full scope of what he's involved in becomes apparent.
What are you left with? A dark, gritty atmosphere and no copious-gore crutch to carry you through the night.
A no-frills DVD: standard definition 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen—that thankfully holds up, because this movie is literally dark—Dolby 5.1 surround, and no extras.
A tactile sense of dread and solid production design are the only standouts in an otherwise disposable slice of terror.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: E1 Entertainment
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