Picks and Pans Review: Cube

updated 09/21/1998 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/21/1998 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Maurice Dean Wint, Nicky Guadagni

If you have ever been trapped in a malfunctioning elevator with strangers and found them so irritating that you tried prying open the doors yourself, you'll get the idea behind Cube. This is a claustrophobic sci-fi thriller shot on a single set in which everyday folk—a cop, a doctor, a student, an ex-con, an office worker and an idiot savant—wake one day to find themselves locked together in a cube-like room. They have no idea how they ended up there, nor who imprisoned them. To escape this mysteriously malevolent environment—adjoining cubes are booby-trapped with lethal devices that cause instant death—the characters will have to cooperate and trust each other. Fat chance.

Watching Cube, a Canadian film featuring a cast of unfamiliar actors, one is impressed that tyro director Vincenzo Natali managed such stylistic flair on an obviously skimpy budget. The film's plot and characters, however, are right out of a so-so Twilight Zone episode. (R)—L.R.

Bottom Line: Not nearly as three-dimensional as its title

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