When seeing the previews for The Thirteenth Floor, most would say, "Been there, done that." There have already been a couple of virtual reality movies, including eXistenZ and most notably the big hit The Matrix. The Thirteenth Floor, of course, didn't copy the formula since it came out around the same time; the problem is that it came out around the same time, and last. After seeing The Matrix, with its accelerated action and spiffy graphics, The Thirteenth Floor may seem amateur, but in truth, the only similarity is the common theme of "Questioning reality." Otherwise, they cannot be compared.
Unlike The Matrix, which was basically about breaking free of an alien-controlled computer program and kicking the shit out of the bad guys, The Thirteenth Floor is an original twist of a murder mystery, incorporating the newly popular virtual reality theme. Basically, Douglas Hall (Craig Bierko) wakes up not knowing what he did the night before, and his boss was murdered by someone he apparently knew. The owner of the bar where his boss was killed claims it was Hall, and Hall is not so certain of his innocence, either. The story is pretty good, and not overly predictable. I guessed the outcome rather precisely, but just as easily could I have been thrown by the surprise twist near the end of the movie.
The acting is not that great, but adequate for the movie. Gretchen Mol does a sexy job as Fuller's supposed daughter, and Bierko is decent as the main character. The real surprise is Vincent D'Onofrio, who plays Whitney in real life and Ashton, the bartender, in the 1937 world. Whitney was pretty stupid and mumbled a lot of the time, but once they introduced Ashton, it showed how well D'Onofrio could play do different characters.
The Thirteenth Floor is a strange murder movie that is worth watching. It's somewhere between two and a half and three stars, but it probably would have been gotten a better rating if it hadn't come out within six months of The Matrix. The Matrix is much more exciting and graphically oriented, but even though it is totally different from The Thirteenth Floor, the similarities are strong enough to create a sense of disappointment in The Thirteenth Floor.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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