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Death’s Roulette (2023) Review

Death’s Roulette (Uno Para Morir) opens on a familiar note, a group of strangers wakes up to find they’ve been kidnapped and brought to an unknown but opulent location for an unknown reason by an unknown person.

In this case, it’s a cop named Simon (Manolo Cardona, 2091, Who Killed Sarah?). Armando (Dagoberto Gama, Get the Gringo, Once Upon a Time in Mexico) who is a surgeon. There’s a stewardess named Teresa (Adriana Paz, Spectre, The ABCs of Death) and Jose (Fernando Becerril, Ravenous, The Mask of Zorro) who is retired.

The only ones with an obvious connection are three members of a family, wealthy businessman Esteban (Juan Carlos Remolina, The Chosen, Prime Time), his wife Marta (Maribel Verdú, Stories Not to Be Told, Pan’s Labyrinth), and their daughter Lupe (Carla Adell, Journey to the Center of the Earth, The Inhabitant), a human rights lawyer.

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Director Manolo Cardona (Rubirosa) and writers Gavo Amiel and Julieta Steinberg (Witch’s Girl, Yo Soy Franky) let things play out pretty much as we expect they will. Everyone introduces themselves, there’s speculation about why they’re here, and then a disembodied voice tells them they’re here to play a game. The rules are simple, they have one hour to decide which one of them is going to die. That person has to agree to be killed, but can’t volunteer themself. If they don’t play or refuse to make a choice, they all die.

This made me think of another recent film from the same distributor, Paramount, Dangerous Game: The Legacy Murders, only with a group of strangers instead of an estranged family. But it doesn’t take long for Death’s Roulette to bring the works of Agatha Christie, Saw and its multitude of imitators, Cube, and any number of other films to mind.

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If by this point in time you still have an appetite for unpleasant people being forced to play stupid games and meeting unpleasant ends, then Death’s Roulette might hold your attention. But I couldn’t get overly excited by the games revealing such shocking secrets as one character faking their high school diploma, one having an affair and another being an amphetamine addict. And by the time the reveals got darker, I’d stopped caring.

The connection between them is revealed fairly early in the going and is, to be blunt, too far-fetched to get any response beyond actual laughter from me. As does the way the person responsible for bringing them there seems to have anticipated who will say what and when. A character proclaims his innocence, only for an animatronic figure nearby to read testimony proving otherwise.

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And so it goes as buzzers sound and doors open leading the characters from one room to the next, bickering as they go. Unfortunately, the rooms don’t contain anything particularly fascinating and the character’s squabbles are dull even when they predictably turn violent. Even more predictable is the revelation that the killer is disguised as one of the captives. You’ll have guessed their identity even before the “shocking” reveal. It’s actually so obvious that the flashbacks feel like an insult.

Positives? Death’s Roulette does use snippets of a couple of good songs, including “House of the Rising Sun” and “Rock the Cradle of Love”. And the mansion it takes place in combined with the cinematography of Luis Enrique Carrión (What Lurks in the Shadows, A State of Madness) gives the viewer something nice to look at. But that’s hardly enough reason to sit through this. It’s too bad that Death’s Roulette doesn’t play out in real-time, because while the characters only have to suffer for an hour, the audience is stuck enduring ninety minutes of mediocrity.

Death’s Roulette is available on the Paramount+ streaming service in the U.S., Canada, the U.K., Australia, and Latin America. If you feel like taking more chances with your viewing, FilmTagger can suggest some titles to wager on.

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