It’s twisted. It’s riveting. It’s brilliant. It is Death’s Roulette, a delicious new mystery suspense thriller movie from Mexico.
You never really know how a film or TV series is actually going to turn out — good, bad, or meh — from the logline or even the trailer. In the case of Death’s Roulette, the suspense built up in the trailer does the movie justice, and the movie itself made me go, “Whoa,” at the end.
Death’s Roulette (Uno Para Morir) is Agatha Christie’s novel And Then There Were None meets J. B. Priestley’s play An Inspector Calls, brought together and expanded upon with wicked twists by the devilishly creative mind of multi-international film festival award winner Frank Ariza (With the Years We Have Left), who came up with the idea for this Mexican mystery thriller.
The film opens with seven people in various states of consciousness, stupor, and confusion. One man manages to cut the rope that binds his hands and frees others from the ones around their wrists, while a family of three is trying to ascertain the state of each other’s well-being. They are locked in a large room in a mansion situated on the edge of a cliff that overlooks the sea. There isn’t another building for miles, just lush green land in the middle of nowhere.
They are four men and three women who, with the exception of the family members, are strangers to each other. Simón (Manolo Cardona, Who Killed Sara?) is a cop; Teresa (Adriana Paz, Locked Up) is a stewardess; Armando (Dagoberto Gama, Harina) is a surgeon; José (Fernando Becerril, The Envoys) is a retiree; and Lupe (Carla Adell, Monarca) is a human rights lawyer and environmentalist, and the daughter of Esteban (Juan Carlos Remolina, Sr. Ávila) and his wife, Marta (Maribel Verdú, You Cannot Hide), the wealthy owners of a business conglomerate.
Several minutes later, they learn why they were abducted and brought here: They are participants in a twisted game, one that has just three rules — the first of which requires them to choose one amongst them to die. Whoever is chosen must agree to die, and no one can offer themselves up to die. Refusing to play the game means certain death for all seven of them. And they have sixty minutes to decide who the soon-to-be dearly departed will be.
Let the game begin!
As the clock starts ticking down, reasons for why it shouldn’t be him/herself and why it should be that person start coming up. Then the group discovers that there is more to this house of horrors and more to the game. In the process of following another directive, they quickly learn that the game master knows their most lurid secrets — and realize that they are all connected by a dark past.
But the game isn’t over yet. There is still time on the clock. They must pick someone to die.
The game master is waiting…
Hoo boy! The twists and turns in Death’s Roulette take the already-dark story into the depths of human nature, where the basest of desires take over and leave any sense of humanity by the wayside. And when you think the story is done, there’s more — additional layers of twists and surprises that deepen the intensity of the game long after it’s over.
The stylized sets hearken back to the early- and mid-20th century, when Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None was first published and J.B. Priestley’s An Inspector Calls was first performed, with one room also featuring a large, contemporary piece of… let’s call it interactive art, whose marked difference to its surroundings is jarring (which I expect was the intention) and whose role in the game is integral. There’s more besides, and the production values across the board are high.
So, too, is the level of the acting, with kudos going to Maribel Verdú for bringing the character of Marta to such life that one can’t help but understand her and despise her at the same time. For the whole of the cast, none of their talent is wasted here, as they had great material to work with.
Death’s Roulette is now streaming in the US, Canada, the UK, Australia, Latin America, Italy, France, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, and South Korea, exclusively on Paramount+.
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