The 4th Floor

Nobody sleepwalks through a movie quite like William Hurt. Capable of enormous understated power when engaged, Hurt switches to auto-pilot when in films unworthy of his talent, adopting a glassy-eyed expression and moving and talking as little as possible as if to conserve energy. He adopts that look throughout The 4th Floor, in which he plays the weatherman boyfriend—irritatingly peppy on television but virtually catatonic off-camera—of skittish New York interior decorator Juliette Lewis. Hurt wants Lewis to move in with him, but she instead moves into a snazzy, rent-controlled apartment formerly occupied by her dead aunt. There, she encounters some of the least friendly neighbors this side of a Children Of The Corn movie, a suspicious bunch that boasts a character-to-suspect ratio to rival a game of Clue. Besieged by threatening letters and an influx of mice and insects, Lewis begins to feel that her life is in danger. But, in hallowed woman-in-jeopardy tradition, no one will believe her, forcing her to resort to Nancy Drew-style tactics to uncover the mystery behind her aunt's death. Like its protagonist, The 4th Floor gets off to a sedate start but grows more unhinged as it goes along, climaxing in an overheated finale that's as meaninglessly kinetic as its first half-hour is dull. Lewis shows once again why she's one of filmdom's most irritating performers, investing her hapless, Lifetime-ready heroine with a spine of jelly, a braying speaking voice, and the problem-solving savvy of a ripe mango. The far-too-generous DVD version includes audio commentary from The 4th Floor's writer-director, editor, and production designer, as well as an alternate twist ending that's as insultingly obvious as the Scooby Doo-level twist that actually made it into the film.

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