THE THIRTEENTH FLOOR
A complex new virtual reality program has been designed, hidden away
in a high-rise office building. Inventor Hannon Fuller (Armin Mueller-Stahl),
and programmers Douglas Hall (Craig Bierko) and his friend Whitney (Vincent
D'Onofrio) have created a detailed simulation of Los Angeles in 1937. The
major difference between this and any other virtual reality adventure game,
though, is that this is a self-teaching program. It doesn't need a "user"
to run it, so the hundreds of characters, three of which are patterned after
our guys, live their lives in their own little synthetic '30s world. Although
it is possible to enter the program, it could be dangerous, so none of them
have tried it yet. They think.
But Fuller has tried it. He's been making a habit of entering the program,
assuming his bookseller character that's designed into it, and getting lucky
with some prostitutes in the Wilshire Grand Hotel. Now, that's quality porn.
But one evening after returning to the real world and going out for a drink,
he is murdered. What's more, a witness claims he saw Douglas pull the trigger.
Soon after detective McBain (Dennis Haysbert) begins questioning Douglas
and Whitney, a woman named Jane (Gretchen Mol) appears, claiming to be Fuller's
daughter. Douglas and Whitney are sure Fuller never mentioned her, but there
she is, and she plans to close down the computer programming operation.
Then Douglas discovers a recorded message on his phone machine from Fuller,
taken on the night he died. He seemed to have known that his life was in
danger, because he left a note in the Grand Hotel for Douglas to find. So
in order to find the note, clear his name, and solve the crime, Douglas
must take the risky trip down the cyber-optic pipeline. When he does, he
meets himself (as a bank teller), Whitney (as Ashton, the ascerbic bartender),
and Fuller as the bookseller. And he also meets someone he didn't expect:
This plot is complex, but not muddled; the actors do a superb job of assuming two (and sometimes three) different characters, depending on which reality they are currently in. The 1937 scenes are impeccable the Grand Hotel is embellished with everything you'd expect from a posh joint like that, and the costumes are excellently researched, also. Rusnak keeps the action going effectively and, unlike The Matrix, doesn't rely on gunfire to solve all the protagonist's problems. Thank you. ****½
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