Rarely does a movie come around that can take a well-used theme and make something fresh from it. Unfortunately, Thirteenth Floor is unable to do this. This movie has very little going for it, which is a shame since it has some potential. The plot, as it is, is simple, a murder mystery that spans the real world and a computer generated virtual world. Most of the characters therefore play two roles when they seem barely able to handle just one. The waste here is the actors are normally very good. The best examples of this are with the peripheral characters Armin Mueller-Stahl, who plays the murder victim and owner of the firm that has developed the VR system and the computer programmer/VR bartender underplayed by the incredible character actor Vincent D'Onofrio whose talent is wasted here. Director, Josef Rusnak, has most of his experience in German TV and has not been able to make the change to an American, mainstream movie. I was very glad for chapters in this movie since it was difficult to take in one sitting.
The direction is flat. There is nothing to keep the story interesting. In this type of movie pacing is everything. 13th Floor has the most uneven pacing I have ever seen and Ive seen more than the typical number of movies. In some spots the movie drags. You want something to happen just to get things back on track. In spots where you want more of an explanation or further character development, the direct just rushes through the scenes making you jump back to see if you missed something. There is also too much dependency upon the special effects rather than letting the actors become the focus of the story. This movie was often compared to the Matrix but there really no comparison. The Matrix had a story that was enhanced by the effects but that foremost portrayed the actors. In 13th Floor, the special effects and period sets seem devoid of real characters.
For what its worth, the DVD is pretty well constructed. The sub woofer was a bit over used but the sound separation was well done. The video was usually clear and always free of defect. There was a commentary track featuring the director and production designer but since there was little to hold your interest in the movie a description of how the movie was done seems a bit like over kill. The 13th Floor should have been left in the basement.