Monday, January 11, 2016

The Thirteenth Floor


   The Thirteenth Floor? More like The Thirteenth Bore. I was digging around iMDB lists for good sci-fi movies I might've missed from the past and I found mainly a lot of stuff I've already seen. Then I stumbled across this title and clicked on it. I'm not sure why, maybe it's because I remember seeing the DVD in like every bargain bin ever when I was younger. Oh well. But, anyways, I clicked on it and started reading it's iMDB page. It has a solid 7.0 rating on there and the featured user review was very positive, on top of that, the topic titles for the message boards were all saying how underrated it was and... get this, how it's even better than The Matrix. Yeah. They went there. Them's fighting words.

  Anyways, I took a deep breath, gathered my critic sensibilities and immediately set out to find a copy so I could see for myself. Best case scenario? I found a neat little 90's sci-fi gem that's really really good. After all people and critics alike hated Blade Runner when it first came out, now people recognize it for the classic it is. Okay, fair enough. I was willing to give The Thirteenth Floor a shot. Next time, I'll do the smarter thing and take that shot in a glass instead. The movie is basically a murder mystery that deals with a virtual reality world and a clue, left for our protagonist, inside of it. The story is terribly predictable, I figured out the final twist in minutes. After that, the movie held no interest for me.

  It does have some good things. Two delightful performances from Vincent D'Onofrio. One, a typical 90's nerd computer programmer. Dirty long hair, wears sweatshirts and old worn out pants to work- says 'dude' and stuff. The second? A bartender from the 1930's saddled with the horrifying realization that his world is a simulation of some kind. Of course, he snaps and ends up going homicidal. But this isn't just any homicidal psycho bartender, this is Vincent D'Onofrio's homicidal psycho bartender! He steals every single scene he's in and he's a true pleasure to watch. I love this guy. Unfortunately he's the only one in the cast that's fun to watch.

   The rest range from merely adequate (Dennis Haybert as an NYPD detective), to absolutely abysmal (Craig Bierko as Douglas Hall, our goddamn protagonist), and of course there's plenty of other actors that fall somewhere in between. Before I start bitching about Bierko though, let me address the virtual reality 1930's. The movie's defenders and apologists seem to praise this point of the film with a passion. They all say that the 1930's sequences are stunning. I mean, okay? They're nice to look at but they're nothing special. If I wanted to see a nice period piece, I'd go watch The Untouchables or something. Even though the scenes in the virtual 1930's New York look great, they're not interesting for any one of a hundred reasons.

  Remember, this is a murder mystery. Except that's the least interesting part of the story, because the characters are so busy discovering all kinds of other stuff and worrying about this new technology that at one point I realized... I don't even care about the guy that got murdered. In a story like this, you need an anchor. Something to latch onto and care about so that the movie can reel you in with it's twists and turns. All the twisting and turning couldn't save this movie because there's nothing to care about. Enter: Craig Bierko. This guy's acting is the worst. He has this dumb look permanently fastened onto his face that only ever gets switched for 'stupid' and 'stupid worried'. All his dialog is spoken like he's slightly embarrassed and attending a high school reunion.

  Never mind the fact he has precisely zero leading man charisma, it was a greeeeat decision to rest the entire movie on his shoulders. Not. The only word that kept coming to mind while watching him "act" was 'tool'. This guy seems like a massive tool. He's supposed to be like a Tony Stark type guy, but he seems more like George McFly in a suit. He's not even boring, he's just flat out annoying. It's painfully easy to steal the scene away from this guy. It's terrible. Gretchen Mol is here too as... someone. I don't friggin know. As you might've guessed (I know I did) this is a 'twist' movie. Like The Matrix, Dark City, Inception, Virtuosity, Paprika and any movie even remotely like them. As such, I predicted the twist right away and it rendered well more than half of all the characters in the entire inert and void.

  The movie even stops being a murder mystery at some point. It just becomes a mess of sci-fi mumbo jumbo as crazy crap starts piling up in the last act. I'd rather watch any one of those other movies I just mentioned instead of watching this again. In fact, I really really want to see Dark City like, right now just to watch something similar but you know... actually good. Dark City a smart, haunting, and atmospheric sci-fi noir mystery. Hell, for that matter, so was The Matrix. They just also had kung-fu and bullettime. They also have one more crucial thing that The Thirteenth Floor doesn't have. Style. This movie is devoid of it. It looks super generic. Also, there's some horribly written scenes. Just... badly written moments that made me pause and just stare in disbelief. Like, there's a scene where a bartender (not D'Onofrio's character) figures out who the killer is, and his plan is to immediately attack and blackmail this person?

  Wait, let's get this straight. You heard about someone getting savagely murdered in a friggin alleyway, and you think you know who it is. The first you think about is how much money you can blackmail them for? A psychotic killer? Your plan... is to blackmail... the killer.

  Wow.

  That's some... great writing. That's not just a stupid character, that's lazy writing. Anyways, beyond the 1930's scenes, and Vincent D'Onofrio being awesome- there's nothing unique or memorable about this movie. It has no flashy special effects, no real action, and even it's concepts- while original, were immediately outclassed by a veritable wave of science fiction movies that did bigger and better things with basically the same material. I do not recommend this movie at all. Instead, I urge you to watch Dark City, re-watch The Matrix, or just... take a cold shower. If you want some silly 90's sci-fi that's still fun and very watchable, check out Virtuosity. Hell, check out Brainscan. Not a great movie, but better than this. Shit, go watch Tron. Or Inception. Anything but this one. It's not necessarily... awful, but it's so painfully mediocre that complaining about how underwhelming it was is more fun than I had actually watching it.

  This movie deserves to be forgotten and left in the 90's where it belongs.

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