Produced by Roland Emmerich and directed by Joseph Rusnak, "The 13th Floor" is a 1999 sci-fi/noir film that was largely brushed aside by audiences, many of whom probably thought the film's trailers looked similar to "The Matrix", which had hit theaters a couple of months prior (the fact that the first "Star Wars" prequel had come out a week prior probably didn't help, either.) "13th Floor" certainly isn't a flawless effort, but it has its positives, including gorgeous production design. The film may not have been a success at the box office, but it has gained a bit of a following in the years since.
The picture opens in 1930's Los Angeles, where Hammond Fuller (Armin Mueller-Stahl) goes about his evening before going to bed. Once in bed, he wakes up in present day (well, 1999), where it's revealed that he was in a virtual reality simulator. While in the midst of trying to get information to friend and co-worker Douglas Hall (Craig Bierko), Fuller is murdered and evidence points to Hall as a prime suspect.
As Hall becomes aware that Detective Larry McBain (Dennis Haysbert) is trying to persue him in present day, he realizes that he has to use the simulator to head back to the '30's to try and figure out what Fuller was trying to tell him before it's too late. Fuller's daughter, Jane (Gretchen Mol) also arrives, and provides a romantic interest for Hall - but is she who she says she is? Hall begins to question his own innocence, and it's soon revealed that the world of the simulator has begun to take on a life of its own.
Given the film's jumps between time periods, the picture manages to be both present day sci-fi thriller and film noir, wrapped up in one. However, while the picture looks absolutely stellar - its cold, sleek appearance and period detail during the 30's scenes is impressive, given the picture's relatively small budget - but the picture falls a bit short in other areas.
The performances are a weak point, as while Bierko's acidic humor and sharp delivery has worked in comedic roles, he's more than a little bland in a dramatic role - as the lead, he's just not quite able to carry the movie. Mol isn't given a great deal to do in the production, either. Haysbert is very good in a minor role as the detective, but the character is only seen in a handful of scenes. While the concept is basically interesting, the story also has some stretches that are rather uneventful (a few of the twists are a tad predictable, too), and director Joseph Rusnak lets the pace get a little draggy.
"13th Floor" remains an interesting flick from a conceptual standpoint and the look of the film still remains quite good (considering the low budget), but a few issues (such as casting) keep it from living up to its potential.
VIDEO: "13th Floor" is presented by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment in 2.35:1 (1080p/AVC). The results are very good, if not spectacular. Sharpness and detail are mildly improved over the DVD edition, but some scenes do show a hint of softness that appears to be an intentional element of the cinematography.
Some slight hints of edge enhancement appear in a few scenes, but the picture otherwise appeared pristine, with no noise, print flaws or other concerns. The film's color palette is generally subdued, although richer colors occasionally appear at times. Colors looked spot-on, with no smearing or other concerns. Overall, this was a satisfactory presentation, but at the same time, never really dazzled in any way.
SOUND: The film is presented in Dolby TrueHD 5.1. Convincing sound design puts the viewer right in the middle of things, from the sounds of the 30's to the deep rumble of bass when users jack into the machine. Surrounds are used effectively and the details of the environment are done with precision. Audio quality is fine, as dialogue remained crisp and clear.
EXTRAS: director Josef Rusnak and production designer Kirk Petrucelli offer a commentary. This is a fairly interesting commentary, with Rusnak doing a lot of the talking, mainly discussing how they created most of the sets and effects of the movie. Although the two have a substantial amount to say about the technical work as well as working with the actors, they aren't the most exciting to listen to, as both are rather dry. Still, I actually did like to hear what these two had to say about their original concepts and ideas from the film more than actually watching the film itself, but there were certain things that I would have liked to have heard discussed more, like the effects. Not a bad commentary and again, a little more interesting than the movie itself. Also included are trailers for other titles from the studio and a music video by the Cardigans.
Final Thoughts: "13th Floor" remains an interesting flick from a conceptual standpoint and the look of the film still remains quite good (considering the low budget), but a few issues (such as casting) keep it from living up to its potential. The Blu-Ray carries over the few extras from the prior release and offers mild upgrades in audio/video quality.
The Film B-