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[whitespace] The Thirteenth Floor
Photo by Claudette Barius

Out of the Past:Craig Bierko defends himself against an unlucky script in Josef Rusnak's 'The Thirteenth Floor.'

'The Thirteenth Floor' sinks to cyber lows

By Richard von Busack

A MURDERED SCIENTIST, Hannon Fuller (Armin Mueller-Stahl); the scientist's daughter, Jane (Gretchen Mol), who has been previously unknown to the dead man's trusted assistant, Hall (stubbly Craig Bierko); a computer invention that can download minds into a virtual reality peopled with "fully formed, self-learning cyber beings," in this case, a replica of 1937. Can it be that these 1937 characters have left their fictional world to come to kill people in this one? The Thirteenth Floor, a mostly effects-free effort in speculative fiction, is constructed as a who-done-it. The 1930s world, handsomely created with CGI, gets dropped so that Hall and his partner, Whitney (Vincent D'Onofrio), can solve the boring mystery in the "real" world--which is today's Los Angeles filmed through power-failure/smog-alert lenses that render the characters invisible in the murk.

Not that you miss them. We're meant to believe that these characters, shallower than the average creatures in a Playstation game, ought to fight their way out of the world of illusion. As in The Matrix, they never have anything worth fighting for; the "real" world is as synthetic and badly lit as the imaginary one. Fans of The Simpsons will get a chuckle when they learn that the tough police detective trying to solve the murders is named "McBain." Maybe the producers of The Thirteenth Floor, the Emmerich brothers (late of Godzilla), can download a virtual audience to buy some tickets to this pooch.

The Thirteenth Floor (R; 120 min.), directed by Josef Rusnak, written by Ravel Centeno-Rodriguez and Rusnak, photographed by Wedigo von Schultzendorff and starring Craig Bierko, Gretchen Mol and Vincent D'Onofrio.

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From the June 3-9, 1999 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 1999 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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