Friday, May 28, 1999

Bargain basement

Movie: The Thirteenth Floor

Posted on Fri, May 28, 1999 at 4:00 AM

Our Rating: 2.00

The kids, they just can't get enough of this virtual-reality thing. But even an audience presold on cyberpunk sleight-of-hand won't want to get off on "The Thirteenth Floor," where a veritable dollar store of cut-rate sci-fi clichés awaits.

Marked down and ready to take home is second-hand hero Douglas Hall (Craig Bierko), an embattled computer technician. A pioneer in the whiz-bang field of VR technology, Hall gradually discovers that his company's pet project has sinister underpinnings. The three-dimensional playground the firm has created has begun to intrude upon our own plane of being, with results that are as fatal as they are predictable.

Soon, Hall himself is wanted for the time-tested Murder He Did Not Commit, though he still has time to find love with a mystery woman (Gretchen Mol) who may or may not be the daughter of his slain boss.

It's a scenario we've bought countless times before, but from far slicker salesmen. The holographic world in question is a pinpoint replica of the America of the 1930s, allowing the film's creative team to rely on existing backlot sets instead of building costly alien landscapes from scratch. Nearly every one of the few characters we meet has an exact double on the Other Side, thus reducing "The Thirteenth Floor's" talent payroll by about half.

For his part, Bierko stammers and stumbles his way through the cheeseball pursuit like a poor man's Jeff Goldblum circa "The Fly." Or "Independence Day." Or -- well, you get the idea.

For a while, it seems as if the obvious lack of ambition may amount to some sort of backhanded virtue. The German-American co-production is mostly (and blessedly) free from special-effects showiness and brain-blasting THX sound. But there's ultimately no confusing the admirably restrained with the merely penny-ante.

Ten years ago, "The Thirteenth Floor" might have ended up as nothing more than a forgettable segment of TV's "Amazing Stories" (which itself was a Brand-X knockoff of "The Twilight Zone"). In 1999, however, low-venture, fantasy-fueled pap gets sent straight to theaters. For a week or two, at least.


We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Orlando Weekly. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Orlando Weekly, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at

Orlando Weekly works for you, and your support is essential.

Our small but mighty local team works tirelessly to bring you high-quality, uncensored news and cultural coverage of Central Florida.

Unlike many newspapers, ours is free – and we'd like to keep it that way, because we believe, now more than ever, everyone deserves access to accurate, independent coverage of their community.

Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing pledge, your support helps keep Orlando’s true free press free.


Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.

Read the Digital Print Issue

April 14, 2021

View more issues


© 2021 Orlando Weekly

Website powered by Foundation