Monday, May 8, 2023

Down the Shaft


Timing can often make or break a film's success. That would be especially true if your film was about an attack on a New York city skyscraper scheduled for a 2001 release.

Quick Plot: Welcome to the Millennium Building, 102 floors of thriving activity located in the heart of the big apple. After a bolt of lightning strikes while the bottom barrel security team is on guard, the building's 73 elevators begin acting a bit funny

There are minor inconveniences at first: a maternity workout group gets trapped, resulting in a few early deliveries but no injuries. A rogue rollerblader is sucked into the maintenance elevator via the parking lot and exits on the top floor with a bang, shooting straight out and 100 floors to his death. And of course, a blind man with a bad haircut is lured down the shaft after his seeing eye dog. 

The building's management, played with appropriate Mr. Rich stiffness by the late Edward Hermann, is able to cover much of it up, especially since Ron Perlman's elevator repair company is willing to play along. Rogue rookie mechanic Mark (Twin Peaks' James Marshall) however, knows something is amiss, as does plucky reporter Jennifer Evans, played by pre-Mulholland Drive, post-Children of the Corn IV era Naomi Watts with a New York accent that gave me hives. All that and I haven't even mentioned my boyfriend Michael Ironside stopping by as a maybe evil German scientist.

There is a LOT going on here, and most of it is fairly terrible. Writer/director Dick Maas was remaking his own 1983 film, a movie I apparently watched just four years ago and remember next to nothing about it. Down, also titled The Shaft, will probably linger a little longer in my head for two reasons: its extremely bad pre-9/11 timing, and the fact that it employed so many treasured character actors.

A lot of them are (thankfully) having fun. Unfortunately, it's pretty unclear whether that's what they're supposed to be doing. The tone is a mess, which means the prevailing note is what takes over...and that is basically "dumb." This is the kind of movie where Naomi Watts has to scream fake rape accusations and terrorist threats to get ahead, and I honestly can't tell if the movie thinks it's funny or horrible. 

For the film's first half hour or so, I was amused with the same level of chuckles that a better-than-average Asylum Studio flick can pull. But folks, this movie runs close to two hours which ultimately feels like a violation of the Patriot Act. 

High Points
I'll never argue with a concept as glorious as "killer elevator" and thankfully, for as messy as Down is, it does have a fair amount of fun 

Low Points
I once entered an elevator in a women's hospital along with a single (very) pregnant woman. It was just the two of us and as soon as the door closed, the lights went off. For about two seconds, I realized a terrifying, exciting truth: I would have to deliver a baby. Every sitcom and Beverly Hills 90210 episode I ever watched was leading to this very moment. By the third second, the lights were back and we safely reached the ground floor, crisis/hero moment averted.

I bring this up to say, how dare a movie include a scene where a batch of heavily pregnant women are trapped in a corrupt elevator only to not give us an actual birth scene

Lessons Learned
Nobody moves up in the world faster than an elevator operator

In the scheme of things, decapitations really don't happen that often

When your career takes a downturn, your alma mater may downgrade your status from "Harvard alum" to "former Harvard graduate"

It's hard NOT to recommend the star-studded evil fake New York skyscraper elevator movie because unfortunately, we just don't get nearly enough star-studded evil fake New York skyscraper elevator movies. I THINK I enjoyed this one more than Dick Maas's original, but how much of that was its quality and how much was my glee at the very hint of a Michael Ironside appearance. This could probably make a fun drinks-with-friends kind of watch, as its goofiness requires a certain kind of audience energy in order to work for the ridiculously long runtime.   

No comments:

Post a Comment