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The tale of a young man whose luck shifts quickly—and more than once—writer-director Gela Babluani’s 13 Tzameti can be appreciated purely as a pitiless thriller. Yet this grimly efficient, deftly constructed film is also a bloody-minded allegory of how the affluent West uses the impoverished East. Somewhere in small-town France, 22-year-old Georgian immigrant Sebastien (Georges Babluani, the director’s younger brother) gets a job fixing a roof for financially desperate Jean-François (Philippe Passon). It may not be the only reason he needs money, but Jean-François is a morphine addict, a detail that will later prove significant. In fact, it proves significant rather quickly, when the man dies of an overdose. Informed that the roofing gig is canceled and that he won’t be paid for the work he’s already done, Sebastien decides to take advantage of some information he’s overheard: Jean-François just received a letter containing a train ticket and a hotel reservation, which are somehow related to a chance at a big score. Closely tracked by some men who don’t seem to be part of the operation, Sebastien travels to Paris, then to a house in a nearby woods. His invitation is a card he was instructed to retrieve from a train-station locker, bearing the ominous number “13” (which is what tzameti means in Georgian). It turns out that the card provides access to a death match: a bout of multiplayer Russian roulette for the entertainment and potential enrichment of a group of decadent French gamblers. In a series of rounds, the odds for the participants get steadily worse; the winner does earn a big payoff, but for the rest of its players, the game is an even lousier deal than having their homelands’ economies reorganized by the International Monetary Fund. Recounting its story in widescreen black-and-white images that are accompanied by an electro-dirge score, the movie dispels sensationalism by being as emotionally laconic as it is stylistically austere. Babluani’s premise might suggest that 13 Tzameti belongs on a double bill with Hostel, but the film would fit better at an East-looks-West conference at the E.U. Parliament.—Mark Jenkins