The Thirteenth Floor (1999) Poster

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intriguing, thoughtful sci-fi thriller
Roland E. Zwick21 February 2000
As the last millennium comes to a close and a new one opens, the science fiction genre seems to have latched onto a brand new narrative format - the cyber/techno thriller, wherein characters are free to wander in and out of virtual reality worlds and are even forced to call into question the validity of the world we have hitherto smugly referred to as "reality."

In 1999 alone, this theme has been explored in "The Matrix", "eXistenZ" and "The Thirteenth Floor." Actually, of the three, this is probably the most intriguing, intelligent and involving, successfully combining the elements of a whodunit with a clever sci-fi tale of a group of characters who drift in and out of a simulated version of Los Angeles in 1937. The plot, though complex, is spun out with coherence and ever-increasing clarity as the layers of information are slowly peeled back to reveal the larger picture. The filmmakers manage to create a sense of unbalance in the audience as we and the characters become more and more unclear as to what is reality and what is a simulation. Because the writers never lose their way, the result is a work of considerable mystery and intrigue.

In terms of art direction and cinematography, the film is a total triumph. The Los Angeles of 1937 the moviemakers have visualized on screen actually has a slight studio backlot, artificial feel to it - perfectly befitting just the kind of world a simulator would create. The photography in these sections also utilizes a slightly off color cast, nicely reflecting the tone found in color pictures of that era.

"The Thirteenth Floor" may not be a very "deep" movie, but it is an honorable addition to a newly formed genre that has not yet had time to ossify in its own conventions. Time alone will tell if filmmakers will be able to expand on this theme or whether, as with most genres, it will fall victim to its own inevitable cliches.
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9/10
Underrated Sc Fi Classic
natesh-singh13 September 2006
The Thirteenth Floor,in my opinion,is an underrated SCI FI classic. It ranks with Blade Runner, The Matrix & Dark City as Science Fiction with a brain. Not only does it raise philosophical questions around technology , reality and existence it is also an entertaining noir-thriller with a few twists. Visually it is similar to the films mentioned above (dark neon-soaked landscapes) however the contrast between the modern and the 1930's adds another level to the films beauty. The film is well cast (Gretchen Mol looks stunning)and Craig Bierko carries the film well. It's one of those rare films that crosses quite a few genres - intelligent sci fi - murder mystery - film noir - thriller - love story.If you enjoyed Blade Runner and The Matrix you will certainly like this film.
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8/10
Solid Science-Fiction.
refinedsugar9 September 2000
This movie was both critically and financially panned. Why?

Two words. The Matrix.

The Thirteenth Floor is a good movie. No, it's not "The Matrix" all over again, but it wasn't trying to be. Comparing these two movies is like comparing Star Trek with Star Wars. Similar in aspects, but very different in others.

This is what happens when two movies of similar type are released in close proximity. The first one always has a jump-start on the second by means of box office success and pleasant reviews. That's why I think "The Thirteenth Floor" was branded as a bad movie. People had already seen "The Matrix" with it's knock-out special effects, cast and weren't open-minded for a movie on the same genre branch. So The 13th Floor was said to be 'a bland, pale imitation of the Matrix'.

Maybe "The Thirteenth Floor" doesn't have a star-studded cast - yes, it's cast is mostly regular supporting players, but they work well with the material. So there's no kung-fu ass kicking scenes, so what!

There's great atmosphere, a intriguing story and a real nice plot twist. To me that makes up a very fine movie. So I ask what was so very wrong with "The Thirteenth Floor" that made critics turn away and made it tank at the box office? Really it's people's unwillingness to give a similar movie a chance and instead opting to take the easy route and branding it as a "rip-off". Which is their loss unfortunately.
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9/10
I think therefore I am... A film that questions the believe that self choice means you are flesh and blood.
skelk2 January 2005
A small simulation set in 1937 has been created. Our main character discovers that his recently murdered partner (the simulators creator) has been using the simulation before its release for human trial. He also discovers that a message has been left in the system for him to find. A message that promises to ultimately change everything.

I recommend this film to all those who enjoyed eXistenZ etc. Fans of David Lynch will not be disappointed either. If you are a great fan of Lynch, then you will see this as an easy to follow film that has some nice turns and twists without forcing you to pause and rewind or watch again.

The film manages to persuade you of the complex simulated world without spending too much of its budget on special effects, unlike the matrix, which ultimately destroyed itself by its overdone sequels. Great set of actors here too. Ones that deserve the job title "actor" and have many creditations to their name.

I am surprised that this little effort hasn't been more popular since it manages to get a complex story line and make it very easy to follow without becoming bogged down with the characters explaining each scene (ergo the matrix).

Overall, definitely one to watch and one to own.
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9/10
Calm, honest, thought provoking
zweistein6 June 2003
For some time I have been hearing people refer to to The 13th Floor, mostly when comparing to other movies of the genre like The Matrix. I finally got around to view it myself, and I was positively surprised. After seeing Matrix I and II, its hard to imagine a film that can be on par. The 13th Floor is it. Not in action, stunts or CG, but by presenting an old, yet interesting idea in wonderful pictures and a genre between sci-fi and mystery. The main protagonists "calmness and integrity" contrasts with the absurd situation the characters are in. Camera, lighting and the "textures" are excellent and the sound track perfectly completes the unique atmosphere.

Very recommended!
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9/10
Thoughtful Sci-Fi in the Vain of Gattaca
stvartak17 December 2001
The Thirteenth Floor is a thoughtful and engaging film that asks its audience to think about the difference between reality and virtual reality. The Matrix asks similar questions in an action format appealing to a wider audience, but the Thirteenth Floor exceeds the Matrix in two respects. First, it uses a thoughtful approach that establishes its characters as more than 2-D, comic-book type heroes and villains. Second, it builds longer and with more subtlety, so that the payoff comes much later.

And a delightful payoff it is. Imagine the Matrix with less action fluff, real human relationships, and a plot twist reminiscent of the Sixth Sense. Fans of thought-provoking science fiction in the vain of Gattaca will enjoy the Thirteenth Floor just as well.
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8/10
1937 Los Angeles looks really good
bat-529 May 1999
Warning: Spoilers
The Thirteenth Floor boasts an outstanding production design. Not the futuristic computer lab but the Los Angeles of the thirties. The art direction is remarkable. The Wilshire Grand Hotel is amazing to look at, both inside and out. The first time we see Los Angeles, we are amazed to see cable cars! Pretty much a rarity these days. The surrounding desert shows what LA used to look like, and it makes you wonder what life was like back in that era. As for the movie itself, it's not that bad. The film really moves when it centers in on the mystery of who killed who. Craig Bierko, sounding like Jeff Goldblum, delves into the LA of the past to find out what is going on. Of course, LA of the past only exists in a computer. The film zips along and carries us for the ride, only toward the end does it seem to drag down a little.
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8/10
A retro Gem
vizfam22 July 2006
I am a child of the 50's, and spent my preteen years feasting on all the classic sifi gems, such as " The day the earth stood still", "Forbidden Planet' etc. The 13th floor reminds me of those movies. This movie has been compared to the matrix, and that is unfair, Special effects are fine, but when they become the focal point of the movie, I think film suffers because of it. I liked the 13th floor because it didn't get caught up in all that technology and reallied on a great script, and a wonderful ensemble cast. I would highly recommend this movie to all, especially if you prefer the old "War of the Worlds" over the new one.
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Thought-provoking and intriguing without being pretentious.
thesnows21 January 2001
The film, without an A-list cast, pulls off the plot well. The characters, although not really deep, are well structured, and the plot constructed with subtle complexity. The 1930s scenes are dramatically created. I found myself trying to guess the plot twists, but with little success as they unfolded. It was a good film, and richer in substance than the Matrix, and left you with a thought provoking afterthought about our own existence. Going into a movie, I hope to have avoided any prior information about the plot, and this one was well worth the purchase of the video. This could have made a great 3 hour movie to really develop the characters and the philosophical issues, however, it was reduced down to the 100 minutes time-span. I'd give it 8 out of 10.
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8/10
Sci-Fi Film Noir
sircmichaels1 January 2006
This movie is clever and fun, and relies on less action and more thought to drive it along than, say, The Matrix.

I am not a fan of martial arts films, and while I don't mind action films, I tend to find them to be a bit boring.

This is a real thinker, a sci-fi film quite unlike any other I have seen. I've always been fond of this movie, with actors who are not well-known but still manage to shine on their own. With relatively unknown actors in the film, it made it much easier to accept the reality of the story than if there were stars all over this film.

Also, there are actions scenes but they do not require unrealistic kung fu moves that go on and on for twenty minutes. Instead, there is a nod to the film noir genre, with its tough-guy characters, shady dames, and guns and fists.

If you enjoy detective films, sci fi, or just like to be entertained, this will definitely serve well.

If you are looking for some run of the mill sci-fi goof-off, go check out something else.
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9/10
All that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream
ske1fr3 June 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Wonderful.

I haven't read any Rotten Tomatoes reviews on this movie, I only saw it recently broadcast on TV. This movie is not the Matrix! Interestingly the old movie "Tron" was shown on TV just a few days before, and this is perhaps appropriate.

If you've played "The Sims" then this movie might make you think again. What if the game you were playing was with real people? Who are the real people? This is a layer cake of a movie. The imagery in this movie is stunning, with the 1930s LA a visual feast. Loved the sepia tinting of these sequences, passed off in the movie as a software fault that needed work.

The plot is straightforward for the first 2/3rds of the movie, but then it accelerates and goes into left-field. I thought the ending was acceptable: indeed I thought the colours in the ending suggested that that this was another level to the virtual reality, which left a pleasant taste as it were in my intellectual mouth.

Best visual effect? The Edge of The World.

Quantum Leap!
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7/10
Entertaining and thought-provoking....very underrated
The_Void13 November 2005
The Thirteenth Floor is one of those films that has gotten lost under all the more well-known films of the late nineties; and this is a shame, because it's a damn sight better than a lot of the films that always receive praise from the critics. Not everything in this film works, and for that reason and others; it's no masterpiece, but you've got to admire The Thirteenth Floor for it's originality, and it's ability to pull a coherent plot out of a scenario that has 'disaster' written all over it. The film is based on the book "Simulacron-3" by Daniel F. Galouye, which is the same book that inspired Rainer Werner Fassbinder's "World on a Wire". Whether or not this version is better, I can't tell you having not seen Fassbinder's version; but I can tell you that this version is worth seeing. The film follows the death of a computer programmer. He was working on a computer simulated world before his death, and his colleague; Douglas Hall, believes that the programmer left the key to discovering his murderer inside the virtual world...prompting him to go in search of it.

The film works both as an entertaining science fiction flick, and a thought provoking drama. The film asks questions about the value of life and the ills of playing God; and although these questions have been asked by many films many times before; here, it's done so well that you forget that and ask yourself these questions all over again. The twist at the centre of the movie extremely well worked, and after it hits you'll ask yourself how you didn't guess it sooner - and that is testament to the excellent plotting preceding it. Despite being a science fiction film, there is very little in the way of special effects in this film. However, the movie makes up for this with the excellent way that 1937 Los Angeles is created - it's easy to buy into the film's multi-world plot, and for that reason; it doesn't need special effects to work. The acting is largely good, with Craig Bierko impressing in the lead role. Vincent D'Onofrio, Gretchen Mol and 24's Dennis Haysbert, who is excellent in his small role, support him. On the whole, this isn't brilliant or a masterpiece; but as far as modern Sci-Fi goes; this is one of the best I've seen.
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9/10
Wow! Incredible movie!
Peter Midknight30 April 2015
Soooo far ahead of its time, what an amazing film! Sure the Matrix had more money and better FX but I'd be willing to bet my left nut that if this were remade (for modern times with a generous budget), a smarter audience would agree that this film blows that cyber punk hacker crap called The Matrix way out of the water.

From beginning to end this movie had my attention and of course I could pick a little at the dialog here or there or this or that, but it was made in the 90's, over a decade and a half ago. I mean, in 5 years, we'll be 20 years ahead of where we are now, so considering that, this has just earned a 9/10 in my book.

I have absolutely no reason not to recommend this to anyone. Well, anyone with the ability to see beyond the (very slight) limitations of when this was made. Even then the 1930's was fantastic and so was the future. I'll stop there so that there aren't any spoilers, but if you have any interest in this sort of thing, I can guarantee that you'll at least be able to appreciate the movie and its ideas, if not, actually enjoy it and have a good time as I did.

(In order to avoid stone throwing, I have to add this >) There is quite a following for The Matrix and we can never really compare movies side by side as these stories were different and so was the 'feel' (unless its a remake of the very same movie, maybe.) and The Matrix had 4 times! the budget this movie had. So.. anyway:

DO NOT SKIP OUT ON THIS MOVIE. You just might regret it.

That's Allstate's stand ... are you in good hands? ;)
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As others would say, question of playing god...
PeterisKrisjanis17 July 2004
Movie touches idea about creation and living in the virtual world and how it could impact you, how power makes you ill and crazy and you start to destroy your creation.

Yes, someone maybe can claim a movie dull sometimes, but it's really different mood, it's not action-based, but thought and dialog based. And end, altought I guessed it could be like that way, surprised me anyway.

In overall, good, very interesting point of view to virtual worlds and playing god theme. Hollywood ending is somehow very oversweet (for me doesn't matter, I like happy endings sometimes, when it involves romance :)), it raises many points to think about.

8 out of 10.
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9/10
Wonderfully inventive movie...
barryjaylevine14 July 2008
...unlike the second and third Matrix films, "- Rehashed" and "- Regurgitated".

Lots of twists and turns to keep you guessing all the way to the end. Just enough good special effects to generate some "wow!"'s. At heart, this is a film noir murder mystery that Rod Serling would have loved; shows what a good script with a hard-working cast can do (if kept far enough away from George Lucas).

Twenty years from now, when the Matrix trilogy is finally relegated to the dustbin, if only because it took itself too seriously, The Thirteenth Floor will be remembered with the respect it deserves.
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10/10
"The Matrix" has this film.
XweAponX28 June 2011
This film was overshadowed by, and ultimately lost in The Matrix, just like Dark City. Each of these films dealt with our perception of reality, but this one here, at least in Book form, was the absolute first, decades prior to the Wachowski brothers.

Released in a flurry of invisibility in May 1999, exactly two months after The Matrix came out, this film was quietly swallowed up in The Matrix, although it was almost the exact same premise as The Matrix.

Produced by world-destruction expert Roland Emmerich, directed by Josef Rusnak (who is directing this year's "Beyond") - For a film made by Emmerich, this film does not have 15-mile wide spaceships, or a huge Pyramid ship and a Ring that flushes sideways, or environmental disasters, or Mel Gibson waving Flags that had not been conceived yet... This film is a very quiet, Noir film, completely different than the normal Faire that Emmerich's company Centropolis produces.

With a cast headed by Craig Bierko, a very pretty Gretchen Mol, Armin Mueller-Stahl and Dennis Haysbert, not to mention a hippy version of Vincent D'Onofrio along with a Bartender version of same, this film was the first to ask the question: "What if... what we perceive as reality is not reality at all, but some constructed thing?" - But whereas The Matrix has only The Matrix, this film deals with Worlds within Worlds, a concept and direction that I thought The Matrix was taking in the final scene of "Matrix Reloaded" but was disappointed to be proved wrong with "Matrix Revolutions".

That is where story-wise, this film supersedes The Matrix, it has a much superior concept driving the storyline. Where the Matrix was globbed together by the Wachowski brothers, this film was actually based on a world-class science fiction novel "Simulacron-3" written by Daniel F. Galouye. An Earlier version of this story was made for TV in West Germany in 1973 as "World on a Wire".

In 1937 Los Angeles, Hannon Fuller (Armin Mueller-Stahl), leaves a Hotel, visits a bar and gives bartender Jerry Ashton (Vincent D'Onofrio) a note to be given to a man named "Douglas Hall". Needless to say, Ashton immediately opens the note. Fuller goes home and goes to bed, and wakes up in 1999 Los Angeles... He was in a Virtual Construct of 1937 Los Angeles.

This is the beginning of the film - in 1999 LA, some bad things happen and Douglas Hall is to be blamed for them... Until he meets Fuller's Daughter Jane (Grethen Mol) who can give him an alibi - Except for the fact that she does not exist and Fuller "Never Had a Daughter" according to cop Dennis Haysbert. From there, this film wades between 1937 Los Angeles and 1999 Los Angeles... And we have to guess how deep the construct goes. In a way, this is similar to the film "Inception" and the "Dream within a Dream within a Dream within a Dream" concept... Except that this is no dream, as Ashton tells Hall: "We are real people and you are screwing with us".

If The Matrix had not bombarded the market with it's weaker concept of this plot, this film might have been the sleeper of 1999. As it is, I think this film is the better of the two, although I liked both of them.
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8/10
A movie with a plot instead of special effects
boczkie24 June 2006
Having avoided seeing "The Matrix" and pre/sequels I didn't have that to compare "The 13th Floor" against. Actually, I wandered into the movie during a very late TV broadcast, and was seriously confused for a lot of it. when I got a chance to see the entire movie I enjoyed it greatly.

The idea of virtual reality is very old hat to science fiction readers, but the idea of dropping into an existing character is thought-provoking. (I started to give examples, but this movie doesn't deserve spoilers--you need to see it cold.) Suffice it to say, the characters in the simulated 1937 were real to themselves. They didn't need someone playing God with their lives--as the present-day people find out.

If you like flashy special-effects and kick-ass action, this isn't much of a movie (though both 1937 and present-day LA were beautifully done--I would have loved to have seen more of both). But if you prefer a story, "The 13th Floor" is a good movie. Don't go looking to compare it to another--watch it on it's own merits. Even the syrupy end isn't too bad--and I'd like to have seen more of that world also.
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9/10
An intelligent sci-fi story brilliantly told
perkypops3 May 2011
Like Dark City before it, The Thirteenth Floor uses dark textures to maximise the effects of the disturbing issues it addresses. A superbly written script sucks us into the ideas the story is exploring before shaking loose another layer of stuff to think about. As Dark City moved the buildings and furniture around, The Thirteenth Floor moves the characters around different times - is anyone real or are we being treated to someone's imagination? The acting is top class throughout, the screenplay deftly executed, and the cinematography brilliantly evocative of what we are supposed to feel. There is very little to find fault with. What does surprise me is that this film has not received a greater following.

Well worthy of 9/10.
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5/10
It's okay
Polaris_DiB6 December 2005
It starts as a typical VR story: Oh dear, if we can create worlds that are exactly like ours, is our world real or is it just another video game? What's reality? What's reality?! Okay, so we've been here before. Many many times before. What is different about this movie is that it actually simplifies the situation by giving a solution to it. In order to provide a sort of reasonable climax that isn't just throwing everything into the wind and saying, "Haha, now you aren't certain, are you?" this movie does what seems to be the blatantly obvious and gives the simulacrum a soul.

THAT'S awesome because honestly it's nice to have a sort of direction for this philosophical discussion, and instead of making it, "If they have a soul, what does that mean to us?" it just ends with the, "But they have a soul... leave them alone." This is a refreshing break from everything else along this topic we've been subject to.

Unfortunately, that's about all that's good about this movie. Flat acting holding up a slightly misappropriated pace centers around a story that seemed to struggle, really struggle to find a way to fit in at least a little violence and a love story. A few blatant plot-holes coincide with a hidden enemy whose motivations are incredibly contrived and forced. This film doesn't feel or work as well as it should, and it seems utterly removed from the spectators, almost as if it's so caught in its own world that it doesn't really care about being a story, it just cares about getting the job done.

Yet as a practice in mise-en-scene and as one of the few movies of its subject matter that decides to actually conclude its message, it's still something to be appreciated in its own way.

--PolarisDiB
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9/10
An Underrated Gem!
Danii Disaster2 May 2013
Almost every review compares this movie to either "The Matrix" or "The Dark City" -- mostly unfavorably.

I don't know about anyone, but I thought this was better than "The Matrix", which was too polished and ritzy for my liking.

I've always had trouble understanding the hype surrounding "The Matrix". It's a fine movie, but it's also extremely overrated. And all the movies, with a similar premise, that were produced after it, are now destined to live in its shadow. Not fair.

I won't even mention "The Dark City", because, to me, it was *utter* crap. I hated it.

"The Thirteenth Floor" is a griping, atmospheric, well-acted movie with a decent plot. It doesn't have the "hi-tech" feel of "The Matrix", but that is what I like about it.

I'd gladly watch it again, and recommend it to anyone, who likes a decent sci-fi story.
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7/10
They say déja vu is a sign of love at first sight, well this sure was a déja vu, but love it wasn't.
stamper27 August 2000
Warning: Spoilers
Well this is not only an original thriller but a pretty good one too. Although it sure makes a little bell ring in my head (SPOILER AHEAD<>WARNING MAJOR SPOILER AHEAD), for the way the film goes reminded me a lot of eXistenZ. However these two films are not the same. Whereas the twist is saved for the ending in eXistenZ in The Thirteenth Floor you are told in the film a long time before the film ends, plus you can figure it out before if you really search for something and if you keep your attention, which I didn't (END OF SPOILER<>START READING AGAIN). Furthermore there really isn't that much to say, the effects were good as was the acting and the plot. The only thing that I really didn't like that much in this film was, that it sometimes was too predictable and I think it's a pity, because it kind of made the film a bit worse than it actually was, because it was an entertaining and exciting movie. This film was just the way a thriller is intended and meant to be.

7 out of 10
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7/10
A very under-the-radar science fiction film. And a pleasant surprise.
Mr-Fusion26 April 2013
Warning: Spoilers
The first thing you're stuck by while watching this movie is how stylish is it, both in terms of look and movement. A very odd concept: a murder mystery set in 1930s Los Angeles by way of virtual reality. Indeed, it's like the technology (very '90s) hopped in the sack with the design elements of "Gattaca" and nine months later, "The Thirteenth Floor" was born.

Solid performances from the cast, notably Craig Bierko's accused man, straining to get his questions answered before the cops get him (which includes the likable-but-still menacing Dennis Haysbert). And before I forget, the quite fetching Gretchen Mol. Not really much in the way of character development, but it helps that the focus here is on the central mystery plot.

But it's a story that keeps the viewer thinking from the very beginning, and one that leads to a nice surprise of an ending (not a shocker). And overall terrific production design that plunges you right into Los Angeles, 1937.

7/10
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5/10
The movie that it could've been...
lplohmann3 June 2012
Don't be misguided by the reviews saying this movie sides with ones like Blade Runner or Matrix. While I must admit it clearly had the potential to do so, in the end, well, it just isn't so.

The plot of this film is very interesting. I wonder the book in which it's inspired must be very good. The characterization of the Los Angeles of 1930 is great. But the movie itself is very badly directed and most of the actors are just equally bad. Thi first half of the movie is very rushed what makes the characters seem pretty unreasonable and superficial.

So the in the end the result is just an ordinary movie. It's a little enjoyable, but far from memorable. I give it 5/10 for the studio having wasted such a good history.
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Potentially good, instead just okay.
hypnopaedia25 June 2001
Pretty interesting movie in general, but with some flaws. While watching, I was continuously being reminded of other movies (which is a bad thing). I know that The Thirteenth Floor didn't rip off these other movies, but it did stumble into its share of cliches. When Armin Mueler-Stahl is walking in and everyone greets him even though he doesn't know them; reminded me of The Graduate with Benjamin at the hotel. The scene when the cop pulls over Ashton and finds the body in the trunk reminded me of just about every movie. And the idea that their world was artificially created and their is an end point signifying a fake world, definitely reminded me of Dark City. Finally, the dumb chase scene near the end where the elevator door is closing and Bierko just barely gets his hand in to prevent it. Bullets fly and it's a shame.

There was one really cool thing that I noticed. The same song that the band is playing in a '30s scene is again played by a live band in a '90s scene when Bierko and Mol are dancing. Very nice special effects too. The acting was good, with the main characters sometimes acting in three different roles. For a great movie with Bierko in it, see Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas; Bierko is simply hilarious in the scenes that he appears.

The ideas that the movie presented were very interesting. I wish the writer and director would have followed the philosophical implications instead of what they did. It should have showed the hopelessness and despair that the characters of the artificial world would now be going through, for example; the cop (who throws in his share of dumb lines), instead of the lovely and uplifting final scene. It would have made for a much more powerful ending. So, good; but could have been better. Worth your time though.
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