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Doorman, The (2020)
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by Jay Seaver

"This crew should be able to make something at least satisfyingly mediocre."
2 stars

SCREENED VIA THE 2020 NIGHTSTREAM VIRTUAL FILM FESTIVAL: "The Doorman" was never going to be an all-time great movie within its genre - its ambitions just aren't that high - but it probably should have been a good one. The idea is familiar but solid, most of the cast has been good in something or other, and the director is not some anonymous worker bee. At worst, it should be an average bit of not-quite-theatrical action maybe brought down by some piece not being up to par, but instead, it's unimpressive all around, no single part being as good as it should.

It starts with soldier Ali Gorski (Ruby Rose) doing escort duty for the American ambassador in Bucharest, the sort of mission that leaves one with a great deal of regrets or PTSD. A year later, she's back home in New York City, discharged and at loose ends until her uncle Pat (Philip Whitchurch) hooks her up with a job as a doorman at the Carrington, a Manhattan residential building undergoing renovation. And it should be easy to start, since most all the tenants will be out of town over the Easter weekend for planned construction work. Well, almost everyone - one thing Uncle Pat didn't mention was that Ali's late sister's husband Jon (Rupert Evans) and his kids (Julian Feder & Kila Lord Cassidy) live there and are one of the two remaining. The others are an elderly couple whom superintendent Borz (Aksel Hennie) and recently-released criminal Victor Dubois (Jean Reno) are targeting.

The setup is Die Hard without the numbers completely filed off, but that's not exactly a bad thing; even as it aims to steal from the best, the story has some other stuff going on, although with four writers credited it's not surprising that somewhere along the way they couldn't really make the other things they're playing with stick. There's a script somewhere in there where all the secret passages, forgotten crimes, and people who have left old lives behind connect and resonate, but it feels like sheerly practical things like how to keep the action from spilling outside or how few characters they can get away with having without it seeming excessively unlikely than any of that. There's also a plot thread about Ali and Jon apparently having been a couple before he married her sister that is just completely useless, like screenwriters can't imagine writing not having a romantic subplot but can't be bothered to make it interesting.

Maybe something would come of it if anybody in the cast seemed to see this as a stepping-stone to bigger things rather than a job to fill time, but there's nobody in the cast who's really fun to watch. Ruby Rose has often been a solid part of an ensemble when she and they are able to challenge each other to raise their games, but she doesn't have that here and winds up fairly bland when not fighting. Rupert Evans is a big ol' nothing as her brother-in-law, and while Aksel Hennie kind of has a good detached-mercenary thing going, it doesn't exactly play off anything because nobody is heated enough to make his calm seem reassuringly professional until it's dangerous. The closest anyone gets to being fun to watch is Jean Reno, who has done dozens of these movies and probably knows what makes them work better than anyone else on the set, so even though he's not really trying to steal scenes (and in fact seems perfectly comfortable spending most of his time on screen in an action movie sitting in a chair directing underlings with nods), doing the minimum amount that works is more than the rest of the cast manages.

Rose, Hennie, and a generally capable group of goons on hand to slow Ali down (Louis Mandylor, David Dakurai, Hideaki Ito) do a fine enough job of running and shooting at each other, and generally don't look bad when they get into punching range, but for the amount of action there is, it's not very exciting. Lots of rounds get shot off, but it's almost always the sort of suppressing fire that keeps something interesting from happening rather than forces it to. The secret passages and hidden areas occasionally made for cool visuals when they're revealed, but are seldom exciting beyond that. Things only start to really cook in the final showdown, when a bit of unconventional camerawork and an impressively gross kill are a reminder that for a while, roughly from Versus to The Midnight Meat Train, director Ryuhei Kitamura was one of genre cinema's most distinct and exciting voices, even if the results were all over the place.

"The Doorman" could use the Kitamura who went for broke and wiped out half the time; it might at least make for a memorable disaster. Instead, he's just one more person among the many here who aren't living up to their full potential. Maybe it's one of those movies where everything from the script to the shoot to the editing is on tight deadlines and the filmmakers never had time to get something great once they had something usable, or maybe everybody was just collecting a paycheck in Romania between more interesting jobs. Either way, it makes for a B-movie that is neither good nor interesting enough to grab a viewer's attention in a sea of straight-to-video action.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=33828&reviewer=371
originally posted: 10/26/20 00:46:46
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2020 Nightstream Virtual Film Festival For more in the 2020 Nightstream Virtual Film Festival series, click here.

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USA
  09-Oct-2020 (R)
  DVD: 13-Oct-2020

UK
  N/A

Australia
  N/A


Directed by
  Ryuhei Kitamura

Written by
  Lior Chefetz
  Joe Swanson

Cast
  Ruby Rose
  Jean Reno
  Aksel Hennie
  Rupert Evans
  Julian Feder



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