Volume 93, Issue 4
Friday, June 4, 1999
|ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT
Thirteenth Floor brings bad luck
EXCUSE ME SIR, BUT DO YOU KNOW THE WAY TO TRON? The Thirteenth Floor is the latest movie to try and bridge the gap between the virtual and the real world.
Gazette file photo
By Luke Rundle
In the fashion of such movies as The Matrix and Existenz, The Thirteenth Floor deals with the boundaries between the real and illusory realms of human understanding, chiefly formed between the physical world of our daily lives and the technological world we continually turn to for answers.
The Thirteenth Floor is probably the least special effects laden of these three films and this shortcoming is only enhanced by its confusing story line and weak acting.
The movie's plot centers on the 13th floor of a downtown corporate tower, home to a top secret computer project. The group's top programmers have taken virtual reality technology to its zenith by creating a digitized replica of 1930s Los Angeles. It allows its users to inhabit the lives of the world's characters and interact in a cyber-world free of consequences. When the lines between these worlds begin to blur, however, the characters begin to question which existence is real and which is manufactured.
The direction of Josef Rusnak and the production of Roland Emmerich should have spelled cinematic disaster from the movie's outset, considering the last time these two combined their derivative talents the result was Godzilla. Their reunion on this film has created a clumsy story line which limps along to its climax, full of blatantly obvious cinematic conventions and laboured performances.
The lead is played by little-known actor Craig Bierko but despite his rookie status, Bierko is one of The Thirteenth Floor's bright spots. Bierko gives a smooth, natural delivery of his lines and his expressive face lends a certain air of comic relief to the movie's plodding seriousness.
Gretchen Mol plays his love interest, a mysterious woman named Jane whose true identity is clouded throughout the film. With probably the worst acting ability in the Screen Actor's Guild, when it comes to lack of facial expression, poor body movement and the ability to read lines in an unwavering monotone, Mol certainly has it all.
Vincent D'Onofrio's talents are wasted in his smaller role as Hall's computer programmer companion, as are those of Academy Award nominee Armin Mueller-Stahl in his portrayal of program director Hannon Fuller. These two outstanding performances are squandered by their secondary character status.
With the movie's constant switching of real and virtual character personas, D'Onofrio and Mueller-Stahl are the only actors who make a concentrated effort to differentiate their two identities, changing their voices, postures and overall personalities in their dual performances.
Overall, The Thirteenth Floor is mediocre in comparison to its aforementioned competitors. What viewers of action/adventure films pay to see are breathtaking special effects, not confusing and clumsy plots employing few visual effects. Perhaps the director/producer team was a little gun-shy of the "all style, no substance" tag on Godzilla and made a conscious effort to keep The Thirteenth Floor's special effects to a minimum. What they failed to realize is that a movie without style or substance is... well, nothing.
Copyright © The Gazette 1999