Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Thirteenth Floor (1999)

"The Thirteenth Floor" starts out with a great concept and proceeds to flay it with the efficient brutality of a certain gender-flexible character in "The Silence of the Lambs." If you've seen "The Silence of the Lambs," you'll know who I'm talking about (hint- his initials are BB.) If you haven't, never mind it, but realize that plot of "The Thirteenth Floor" isn't nearly as good as it sounded on paper.

   Brilliant computer expert Hannon Fuller (Armin Mueller-Stahl) has created a world beyond his wildest daydreams. Using cutting-edge virtual reality techniques, he has created the his childhood home- 1930's Los Angeles, populated by conscious, thinking, reasoning people, who are nonetheless only characters in a virtual world.

 With the help of fellow hackers Jason Whitney (Vincent D'Onofrio ) and Douglas Hall (Craig Bierko,) Hannon has done the impossible- and characters modeled after the three men exist within the computer. Hook one man up to the computer, and he gets to exist within the simulation. What can go wrong? As it turns out, everything.

   After Hannon is brutally murdered, Whitney and Douglas do some snooping inside the computer program, looking for clues. Vincent D'Onofrio gives a good performance both as grungy hacker Whitney and the flamboyant, disturbed, possibly gay (?) character within the simulation, Ashton.

  Unfortunately, Craig Bierko gives a spectacularly poor performance as the boring, unsympathetic Douglas, and it's nearly impossible empathize with him. Other than a widening of the eyes, there seems to be nothing going on upstairs in Bierko's flat, emotionless acting.

   I would like to live in a world where D'Onofrio gets to be the lead and Bierko gets to be the sidekick. But D'Onofrio, physically, is not leading man material, and the movie where the fat man gets to be the lead comes ever so rarely in our lifetimes. But that's okay, because D'Onofrio gets the only other interesting role (the other is Mueller-Stahl) in a concept-based movie where interesting characters are slim pickins.

   And of course, Bierko's character wouldn't be complete without an insipid love interest, so make way for Gretchen Mol, as boring ol' Jane, Hannon's daughter, who comes out of nowhere to seek solace in Douglas' bed. The dialogue ranges from okay to dreadfully dire, with a high cheese factor and no comedic value.

   It's too bad, because there are flashes of brilliance in this script, but mediocre dialogue, a useless love interest, and a poor lead performance sink this boat fast. If this was, in fact, a comedy, the dialogue would be more at home, except for it's blundering self-importance. Avoid, avoid, avoid.

1 comment:

  1. Well, I liked this more than you did. I saw this, The Matrix, and eXistenZ all quite close to each other back in 2000 and all have a somewhat different take on the artificial reality concept. I guess 1999 was the year for it.


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