Monday, October 12, 2020

Nightstream ’20: The Doorman

It is a pre-war building with a battle-tested doorman. Sgt. Ali Orski was decorated for valor, but the ambassador she was protecting was still assassinated during a terrorist attack. It really wasn’t her fault, but she is still tormented by guilt and flashbacks. Fate will give her a chance for redemption, but the stakes will be higher, because her family will be directly in harms way during Ryuhei Kitamura’s Die Hard-style The Doorman, which releases on DVD tomorrow, following its premiere on the opening day of the online genre festival, Nightstream.

After her return, Orski wanted to keep to herself, but she can’t totally ghost her Uncle Pat when he reaches out. Needing a job, she also lets him refer her for doorman gig at a tony Central Park apartment building, but she soon realizes she has been played. That happens to be where her late sister’s husband and children live. It has been a while, but they recognize her—and young Lily Stanton is especially keen to have her for holiday dinner, before the family leaves for an extended stay in England.

It turns out, the Stantons are one of only two tenants still in the building during its scheduled renovations. Frankly, there were not supposed to be there—just the elderly German husband and wife on the ground floor. Victor Dubois certainly was expecting them or a resourceful loose cannon like Orski. He carefully planned to take the old couple hostage to steal the art the now senile old man plundered from the Stasi’s secret archives during the waning days of the GDR. Unfortunately, he stashed the trove of paintings somewhere in their old flat, which is now occupied by the Stantons.

You get the idea, right? Yet somehow, this
Die Hard-style movie carries four writing credits: Lior Chefetz and Joe Swanson for the screenplay, as well as Greg Williams Matt McAllester for the story. Regardless, they manage to use old Manhattan in creative ways, devising secret doors, dumb waiters, and a hidden speakeasy for Orski and her surly teen nephew Max to sneak through in their attempts to evade Dubois’s hired guns.

Ruby Rose is no Cynthia Rothrock or Michelle Yeoh, but she is still a pretty solid action lead playing Orski. In fact, she has a convincing “cool aunt” thing going on when protecting Lily and Max. However, Rupert Evans’ charisma-challenged portrayal of their dad, Jon Stanton, makes it dashed hard to believe she could ever have had an illicit affair with her snotty, pasty-white brother-in-law. Not surprisingly, the kids are completely annoying, but Philip Whitchurch has some fine moments as grizzled Uncle Pat.

Of course, it is always fun to watch Jean Reno, but he seems a little bored playing the Hans Gruber role here. Louis Mandylor is also weirdly reserved as a pedestrian safecracking henchman. However, Norwegian actor Aksel Hennie (
Max Manus) more than holds up his villainous end as Borz, the psychotic turncoat doorman.

Kitamura is more known as a horror guy, but he stages several highly charged action scenes. There are plenty of logical holes and credibility gaps (like the way Orski’s marksmanship varies from the spot-on accuracy in Romania to the errant randomness of her confrontations with Borz), but he powers through them with his energetic execution. This will not redefine the genre, but it is entertaining in a meathead kind of way. Recommended as the sort of film you can turn your brain off, crash on the couch, and watch without any great analysis or expectations,
The Doorman finishes it theatrical run today at the Fabian 8 in Jersey and releases tomorrow (10/13) on DVD, following its Nightstream premiere.