Tag Archives: armin mueller stahl

Joseph Rusnak’s The Thirteenth Floor

Are you into science fiction infused with film noir? Do you enjoy films like Blade Runner, The Matrix, Inception, Dark City and Source Code? Well, Joseph Rusnak’s The Thirteenth Floor isn’t quite as good as those, but it’s still a welcome addition into stylized 90’s high concept tech retro futurism, given the darkly lit flair of a noir mood-scape. Somewhere in the naughty 90’s, the head scientist (Armin Mueller Stahl) at a research firm has discovered that his advanced software project works a bit too well, and that he’s created a living, breathing virtual reality zone of 1937 Los Angeles where there are consequences to actions and the simulations living there have a rebellious nature. After his untimely murder by an unseen hand, his protege and fellow researcher (Craig Bierko, who does alright but always seems a bit miscast and aloof here) is drawn into a trippy web of intrigue, forced to make the journey into the simulation and search for clues in a hazy, sepia toned LA of the 30’s. Vincent D’Onofrio does double duties as another scientist and a dodgy bartender inside the simulation. Complete with the bumbling, Stetson sporting detective (Dennis Haysbert) and the mysterious, angelic femme fatale (Gretchen Mol), this strives hard to be noir and genuinely does invoke the right feeling, from the feverish, atmospheric lighting of 90’s LA to the production design of the 30’s. Sometimes the muddled elements of romance seem a bit misplaced and awkward, as do a few story elements here and there, but when it works it really works, weaving a thoughtful, twisty narrative that arrives at a reasonably mind blowing conclusion, asking questions about the nature of reality, blurring the lines between soul and software in the best ways. This has been eclipsed by other similar films from that decade, and fair enough as they are admittedly more competent, but I still feel like this is a forgotten gem of sorts and really deserves some love from fans of the several genres it’s composed of. Fun stuff.

-Nate Hill

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Mimi Leder’s The Peacemaker


Despite being a fairly dull film overall, Mimi Leder’s The Peacemaker has a few redeeming qualities that almost put it up there with other far better efforts in the wartime espionage subgenre, namely a terrific score from Hans Zimmer and one of the most flat out badass George Clooney actions scenes you’ll find anywhere in his career. It’s a shame the film you find these qualities in is a heavy handed, by the motions anti-terrorism headbanger that says and does nothing we haven’t seen a million times over. Clooney is the seasoned military man, on a globetrotting mission with Nicole Kidman’s intuitive agency analyst, tracking down several Russian nukes that were lifted off a train somewhere in Europe during a painfully static opener. There’s a radical out there played by French actor Marcel Iures, hiding as a piano teacher of all things, biding his time till he gets to go kaboom somewhere stateside and get revenge for some horrendous misdeed against his family. He’s actually the most interesting character, thanks to Iure’s obvious talent and the near sympathetic light they’ve painted his character in. The film is so by the numbers it’ll put you to sleep though, and the positively supersonic score from Zimmer feels like it deserves a better film. Still, you can’t go wrong with the sequence just after a droning car chase where Clooney has T-boned the baddie’s ride and trapped him inside. George promptly steps out, walks over and empties an entire fucking clip into this guys face, it’s pretty much the coolest thing the he’s ever done onscreen. Too bad the film as a whole couldn’t keep up with the organic, intimate level of energy infused into this one moment, we could have gotten something memorable. 

-Nate Hill