Typically, thrillers aren’t a lot of fun when you can correctly guess every plot twist and character motivation. The Night Clerk doesn’t change that notion with a plot you can see coming the second all the principal characters are introduced and a complete lack of surprising developments.
And another general rule, creepy voyeurs don’t exactly make for the ideal protagonist.
The film centers on Bart (Tye Sheridan, X-Men: Dark Phoenix), a night clerk at a local hotel. Bart has Asperger syndrome. Instead of benefiting the plot in any discernible manner, Bart’s developmental disorder is used to drag out scenes as he tries to mimic conversations he observes in his encounters at the desk.
Too often director/writer Michael Cristofer uses the disorder as an easy way to work in some alleged comedy by having Bart make blunt statements like a car salesman is fat or a man working at a suit store is too old.
Bart’s most questionable behavior is placing cameras throughout the rooms so he can observe the guests. Cristofer doesn’t fully explore Bart’s voyeuristic tendencies keeping it relatively harmless as a means to better interact with others. Still, Bart’s actions come off very creepy and it’s hard to find him particularly sympathetic.
Things got more exciting at the hotel when a woman is killed in her room. For some reason, lead investigator Johnny Espada (John Leguizamo, John Wick: Chapter 2) thinks Bart is his suspect. This is problematic in the sense that this is apparently the only hotel that doesn’t have security cameras on the outside, which would clearly acquit Bart and finger the real suspect.
To keep the suspense going, Bart decides for some bizarre reason not to turn over his recordings to Espada even though he knows who killed the woman. Bart needs to do something soon as the woman’s husband, Nick (Jonathon Schaech, Legends of Tomorrow) is convinced Bart is the culprit too.
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Business continues as usual during the investigation and Bart becomes enamored with a new guest, Andrea (Ana de Armas, Knives Out). Andrea also takes an interest in Bart and the two form a quick friendship, which could get threatened as the investigation results in new developments.
For a lower budget film, the movie looks good with solid lightning. Cristofer sets up a relatively strong mood backed by a talented cast. Sheridan largely plays Bart in an fashion that isn’t too showy or exaggerated while de Armas provides a mysteriously seductive air to Andrea.
It’s not the most glamours role and unlikely to get much buzz, but Helen Hunt delivers a very strong performance as Bart’s amazingly patient mother.
The big problem is Cristofer ignores some basic logic seemingly just to keep the story going while dismissing some obvious tells in his script that allow the audience to know exactly where he’s going well before he’s ready to make the big reveal. And by that point most viewers will long since be ready to check out.
Rating: 4 out of 10
Photo Credit: Saban Films