(director/writer: Dick Maas; cinematographer: Marc Felperlaan; editor: Bert Rijkelijkhuizen; music: Paul M. van Brugge; cast: Naomi Watts (Jennifer Evans), James Marshall (Mark Newman), Ron Perlman (Mitchell), Michael Ironside (Gunter Steinberg), Dan Hedaya (Lt. McBain), Edward Herrmann (Milligan), Kathryn Meisle (Mildred), Martin McDougall (Security Guard Andy), John Cariani (Security Guard Gary), Eric Thal (Jeffrey); Runtime: 110; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Laurens Geels/Dick Maas; Buena Vista International; 2001-USA/Netherlands-in English)

“If you paid to see this flick, I think it’s fair to say you got the shaft.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Writer-director Dick Maas’s (“The Lift”-1983) poor excuse for a sci-fi/horror flick is one of those Technology Run Amok stories that’s about as interesting as your usual elevator ride. Naomi Watts acted in this third-rate thriller before her stardom in such pics as Mulholland Drive, which gives her some excuse for being trapped in this defective elevator gone crazy movie. But there’s no excuse for veteran actors such asRon Perlman, Edward Herrmann, Michael Ironside and Dan Hedaya. If you paid to see this flick, I think it’s fair to say you got the shaft.

The express elevators in New York’s Millennium Building (a pale imitation of the Empire State Building) has caused the accidental death of a blind tourist who fell down the shaft and decapitated a jolly security guard (Martin McDougall). Crack elevator repairmen from the Meteor Elevator Company, ex-marine vets of Desert Storm, Jeff and Mark (Eric Thal & James Marshall), can find nothing wrong and give the law suit worried building boss, Milligan (Edward Herrmann), the green light to put the elevators back in service. But soon a street racing skater is ejected from the elevator and thrown out of the 86th floor as if he were a guided missile and becomes hamburger meet on the sidewalk.

It’s only when nosy reporter, looking for a headline story, Jennifer Evans (Naomi Watts), from the trashy tabloid the Morning Post (a pale imitation of the NY Post) suspects something more than a mechanical problem and gets the attention of Mark, that we get down to the mystery. It’s this mad German scientist, Gunter Steinberg (Michael Ironside), given the boot by the army for his failures, who works a deal with the president of the Meteor Company (Ron Perlman) to develop a machine with a bio-chemical brain–in other words a machine that can think for itself. Yes. It’s one of those kind of absurd flicks. Unfortunately as the accidents pile up and the story grows increasingly more absurd, there’s no scares, no logic, no funny moments (unless you consider a miscarriage in the failed elevator as something to laugh about) and trite dialogue that even these capable actors can only take it on the chin for as one of those over-the-top movies that’s in a free-fall.