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1 item from 1998

Film review: 'Cube'

14 September 1998 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

Without warning, people are dropped inside a prison maze comprising 17,000-plus 14-by-14-foot cubes. With hatchways in the center of walls, floors and ceilings, the cubes are identical except that some have lethal booby traps and others are safe. The goal is to maneuver one's way to the outer shell and hopefully freedom.

In "Cube", tyro Canadian director Vincenzo Natali's low-budget thriller, a short story-like concept worthy of Phillip K. Dick or J.G. Ballard is stretched to feature length. The result is decidedly mixed. The Trimark Pictures release will lure curiosity seekers as a limited theatrical attraction but find more enthusiastic gory game fans on video.

While occasional standout sequences arise from the nightmarish setting and constant tension, the script and performances are disappointing. As if the prison were not bizarre enough a creation, the characters are a motley crew of edgy men and women who come together by chance and try to solve what they are trapped inside and how to get out of it.

Through trial and error -- which can leave a prisoner chopped up like cat food or sporting a face melted away by acid -- the impromptu band of heroes learns how to tell when it's safe to move from one cube to the next. Some rooms are red and some green, but determining which have nasty traps is not so simple.

One early casualty is a famous escape artist (Wayne Robson), who uses his shoes to test for motion sensors on the threshold of each new cube. Others in the group include a cop Maurice Dean Wint), doctor (Nicky Guadagni), mathematics student (Nicole de Boer), architect (David Hewlitt) and idiot savant (Andrew Miller).

When the dialogue and action are caught up in the group's struggle to survive long enough to interpret clues about their predicament, "Cube" is a mildly unsettling experience recalling dystopian visions of an unforgiving future where humanity is literally reduced to vermin. But it's no "THX 1138" and reminds one more of Robert Altman's odious "Quintet".

Factor in overwrought characters and over-the-top acting from a cast of unknowns, and "Cube" sinks to the level of a nasty comic book. With a background in cartooning and storyboarding for films such as "Johnny Mnemonic", Natali keeps the audience from getting bored, but there's no escaping his underdeveloped storytelling skills.


Trimark Pictures

The Feature Film Project

A Cube Libre production

Director: Vincenzo Natali

Screenwriters: Andre Bijelic,

Vincenzo Natali, Graeme Manson

Producers: Mehra Meh, Betty Orr

Executive producer: Colin Brunton

Director of photography: Derek Rogers

Production designer: Jasna Stefanovic

Editor: John Sanders

Music: Mark Korven



Leaven: Nicole de Boer

Holloway: Nicky Guadagni

Doc Worth: David Hewlitt

Kazan: Andrew Miller

Wayne: Wayne Robson

Quentin: Maurice Dean Wint

Running time -- 90 minutes

MPAA rating: R


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1 item from 1998

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