Thirteenth Floor [1999]

Computer scientist Hannon Fuller (Armin Mueller-Stahl) finds something extremely important. Knowing that he's marked for assassination, he leaves a message in the virtual reality world he's designed, hoping it will be found by colleague Douglas Hall (Craig Bierko). Hall is a suspect in Fuller's murder and indeed finds a bloody shirt in his house, with no recollection of what he did the night before. Hall plunges headlong into Fuller's world (a re-creation of 1937 Los Angeles) to try to unravel the slaying and is soon knee-deep in confusion and trouble. What this film lacks in character depth and plot cohesiveness it makes up for in special effects and high concept. Fans of films like Blade Runner, Dark City, eXistenZ, and even the game Sim City should find this appealing. Of course, there's the question of letting the computers do all the heavy lifting in films while the humans walk through the plot (an all-too-familiar scenario in 1999), but the re-creation of '30s Los Angeles is certainly something to see, pallid script and acting or not. The Thirteenth Floor is a stylish modern-day noir that raises questions about technology versus reality, all the while wrapped up in a murder-mystery story line. --Jerry Renshaw

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