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Volume 1, Number 13

This Week's Reviews:  The Thirteenth Floor, Instinct.



The Thirteenth Floor

(Dir: Josef Rusnak, Starring Craig Bierko, Gretchen Mol, Vincent D'Onofrio, Dennis Haysbert, Armin Mueller-Stahl, and Steve Schub)

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BY: DAVID PERRY

I do not think that this swayed my decision at all, but I'm getting a little tired of movies about people in a virtual world. In the past two years there have been The Truman Show, Dark City, The Matrix, eXistenZ, Star Trek: Insurrection, and now The Thirteenth Floor. I doubt that that had anything to do with my dislike for the film considering that I adored the previous film like that, eXistenZ. My discord for The Thirteenth Floor is mainly in its weak script, one that like so many misguided films tries to be smarter than the audience but fails miserably. I think everybody in the theatre that saw it with me could see the supposed twists for the film after seeing the first half hour of it.

The Thirteenth Floor is about three men that design a system that pits people in a virtual reality world circa 1937. In doing so, the person "plugged in" takes the place of some person in the virtual world where life continues even when no one is "plugged in." When the lead designer Hammond Fuller (Mueller-Stahl) is murdered after becoming the first person from the real world to visit the fake one, a homicide investigation follows by Detective McBain (Haysbert). This investigation finds most evidence pointing at one of the other designers Douglas Hall (Bierko). The problem is that he cannot remember the night in question. Enter the beautiful Jane Fuller (Mol), saying she is now entitled to her father's company (and downfall of the project) as his sole descendant. Way leads onto way and due to a letter sent by Fuller before dying, the virtual character Whitney (D'Onofrio) finds out that his world is fake and attacks Hall and his virtual equivalence to get out.

The film runs for what seems like two and a half hours (actually one hour and forty minutes) since it never attempts to settle down for a breather. I got tired of hearing of the ideas as to what was happening coming from Hall and even more tired of a hideously awful performance by Vincent D'Onofrio (he and Francis Ford Coppola are the only people I know that can go from such good stuff like The Godfather and Full Metal Jacket to such awful stuff as Jack and this). The screenplay is far from as tangled as the film wants you to think, as it reminds me of what The Usual Suspects would have been like if everyone saw its ending coming a mile away. The only thing that I really found enjoyable in the film was cinematographer Wedigo von Schultzendorff's use of lighting. But there is one thing that stands as the best blurb I can come up for this film: It is better than that other Centropolis film: Godzilla.


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Instinct

(Dir: Jon Turteltaub, Starring Cuba Gooding Jr., Anthony Hopkins, George Dzundza, Maura Tierney, Donald Sutherland, John Ashton, and Gary A. Rogers)

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BY: DAVID PERRY

I actually really hate giving this film a negative review considering the terrific two leads in it, but the direction alone keeps me from doing so.

Instinct tries its absolute best to go for the sappiest scenes I have seen this year. Whether having a beaten Hopkins stare in the eyes of a gorilla he thinks he has betrayed or having a prisoner uprising against the guards culminating in, and get this, the tearing of all 52 cards in a deck. Hopkins gives a commanding performance as Ethen Powell, a man who lived with gorillas in Africa for years before being arrested for beating to death poachers, but despite his great work I thought the best part of the film was from Cuba Gooding Jr. as Theo Caulder, the psychiatrist sent in to free him from his silence and maybe even get him a retrial where he can get real freedom. I think this is the best performance the usually overrated Gooding has given (I know I'm near alone on this but I did not think he was that great in Jerry Maguire and far from worthy of the Best Supporting Actor Academy Award [over William H. Macy for Fargo and Armin Mueller-Stahl for Shine?!]).

Its the direction that ruins this. Turteltaub was good when he did the light romantic comedy While You Were Sleeping and the ever-so-sappy serio-comedy Phenomenon, but they far from readied him for a drama hiding in the clothing of a thriller. The scenes in Africa are about as appealing as those in Congo and he gets a little too closed in when trying to show the inside of the prison Powell is kept in. I liked the look of the prison, but not the directors course of taking us through the prison. The only scenes that he did well were the properly claustrophobic therapy sessions between Powell and Caulder.

As thrillers go, Instinct is not thrilling and as dramas go, Instinct is overly dramatic.


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Reviews by:
David Perry
1999, Cinema-Scene.com

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