The Doorman: Ruby Rose discovers that light housekeeping is part of the job description.
Her super powers extend far beyond those of the mild-mannered gatekeeper whose job it is to flag cabs or sign for packages. Look! Up in the vestibule! It’s a guard! It’s a greeter! It’s Doorman! Ruby Rose makes her first big screen ascent since controversially relinquishing the role of TV’s Batwoman. Was it worth swapping out a cape and cowl for The Doorman’s red midi coat and complementary bellman’s hat? Allow me to get those bags while you read.
Rose stars as Ali, a gunnery sergeant who joins the Marines to clear her head of sordid memories; she’s still stinging from an affair with her late sister’s husband. After a routine assignment in Bucharest leaves two dead (through no fault of her own), Ali hangs up her dog tags and silver star. Once back home, destitute, dependable Uncle Pat (Philip Whitchurch) hooks her up with the titular gig in an ancient New York apartment building in sore need of repair. It’s Easter weekend, and a complete renovation is just a few days away. Only two families are left occupying the space: a stroke victim and his wife and, you guessed it, brother-in-law Jon (Rupert Evans) and his children, young Lily (Kíla Lord Cassidy) and Max (Julian Feder). Add to that a fortune in stolen paintings safely stashed in the rafters of Jon’s unit, and suddenly, it’s raining tropes.
Only Victor Dubois (an eminently perturbable Jean Reno) knows what treasures the walls contain. A criminal mastermind steeped in taste and conviction, Dubois’ appreciation of classical music and fine art is surpassed only by the exasperation that overtakes him as he watches his underpaid assemblage of safecrackers and hired muscle succumb to death by incompetence. Even Borz (Aksel Hennie), Dubois’ inside (door)man and second in command, never fails to impress with his ability to distress. In return, the otherwise eloquent Dubois treats him like an animal, barking, “Down, Borz! It’s okay,” as if training an attack dog. Assuming the loot is hidden in the old folk’s home, Borz thinks nothing when Ali asks to spend Easter dinner with her niece, nephew, and cuckold. There’s a good chuckle to be had when news of a one-woman strike force in Apt. 10C is countered with a patronizing, “It’s just a girl. It’s nothing to worry about.”
From talk of Morse code to Max learning the hard way that death is not actually like it looks in one of his video games, much of what comes up in the first half of the movie returns to determine its outcome. (Though admittedly, no one could foresee the watery nail bomb Ali whips together with things found lying around the catacombs.) And true to director Ryûhei Kitamura’s — and the film’s four credited writers’ — theme of hidden art’s hidden truths, it is only through a painting that Dubois is able to crack Ali and Jon’s dirty secret. Nice work. Not only does Max get to witness his Aunt Ali kill, but both children are given pause to consider their adulterous aunt as a mother replacement. We end in a fight to the death between Doorman and Doorwoman, and may the best genderfluid Doorperson win!
October 11. Day 209 without a projected image, and damn if right about now, even a reasonably engaging one-location action-thriller with a tough and resourceful woman in the role generally reserved for Liam/Willis/Diesel doesn’t look good. Here’s hoping Rose’s encounter with DC was enough to forever sour her on lending her name to future comic book calamities. She has the poise and demeanor of an action star, can lambaste with the best of them, and doesn’t feel the need to punctuate each act of violence with inessential one-liners. She’s already caught the eye of Paul W.S. Anderson (Resident Evil: The Final Chapter). Here’s hoping she can take up permanent residence in his next franchise. See The Doorman, currently playing at the South Bay Drive-In. ★★★
Video on Demand New Release Roundup
Shithouse — If homesick college freshman Alex (Cooper Raiff) spent as much time looking for companionship as he did telephonically complaining to his mom and sis about the lack thereof (or telepathically seeking comfort and advice from a plush dog), he’d be the most popular boy on campus. Jonesing for Maggie (Dylan Gelula), his dorm’s RA, doesn’t hurt Alex until the fateful night that a drunken party at the eponymous residence hall draws them together. Our cast of characters spend the first third of Shithouse gleefully shitfaced. (Logan Miller puts his own unique spin on roommate Sam, his generation’s toasted answer to Jeff Spicoli.) What happens when the girl of your dreams caps an idyllic initial encounter by spending the next few weeks (months?) denying your existence? Or worse, hooking up with someone else? Viewers will have no recourse but to laugh uncomfortably along while trying to cushion the pain of shared memory that the film tenderly evokes. In Alex, first-time writer-director Raiff unveils what is appreciably one of the sincerest, most credibly confused teen characters to come down the pike in some time. Even when the dialogue scenes go on too long, there is comfort in knowing that much of what comes out of these character’s mouths crackles with authenticity. Alas, a postscript made me wish the film had ended with a swipe right at the 94-minute mark; the concluding minutes add redundancy to this otherwise crisply-paced and trustworthy romantic comedy. 2020 — S.M. ★★★
Trump Card — Given all the anti-Trump dogma that’s crossed my screen over the past four years, it’s time to give Dinesh D’Souza, this administration’s answer to Leni Riefenstahl, his due. Listen closely: there’s as much Pesci as President in the voice artist hired by D’Souza to ape his adored liberator. (The celebrity documentarian/professional provocateur, convicted of making illegal campaign contributions, received a full presidential pardon.) Like the man who spawned it, D’Souza’s gasconade, a self-proclaimed “exposé of the socialism, corruption, and gangsterization that now define the Democratic Party” is held together by prevarication and swagger. His “art” is shining a flashlight under the bed of socialism, expecting liberals to scramble in fear of being exposed as the cockroaches they are. D’Souza opines that if Obama and Biden truly believed in climate change, neither would have purchased beachfront property. And according to comedian Terrence K. Williams, when it comes to racial politics,”We’ve won!” An easily amused Williams recalls Martin Luther King’s dream of black and white children sharing a playground and eating at the same table. How’s that for a “look how far we’ve come” moment? D’Souza goes on to call Ilhan Omar “ISIS with lipstick,” falsely accuse liberals of using coronavirus to “exploit the politics of fear,” and muses that Scandanavians are to socialism what the Chinese are to infectious disease. Lest we forget: there are also “animated” sequences that make South Park look like Tex Avery, and historical recreations — Abe Lincoln’s whistle stop tour of 1861 — that scream Film Tech 101. Ditto the director’s insistence on inserting himself into as much of the proceedings as possible. When it was over, I wondered aloud, “Maybe Michael Moore is a genius.” 2020 — S.M. ●