Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Review: "The Night Clerk" is uneven neo-Hitchcock

The Night Clerk Review
I was definitely swept into "The Night Clerk" initially. Simply because it reminded me of Alfred Hitchcock.

Tye Sheridan plays Bart Bromley. Bart works as a clerk at a hotel. He seems kinda off at first, but we are not entirely sure what it is. We can't really put our finger on it. He has set up bugs in one of the rooms in the hotel and spends lots of time watching people. Imitating people. Looking at how they speak and how they move and how they think. It's a little creepy at first. But as the movie wears on, we learn that Bart suffers from Asperger Syndrome, and he has purposely put cameras in the room in order to practice coming off normal and not socially awkward. He doesn't share with anyone where he has hidden cameras, nor is he very open about his condition.

One night, he gets to go home early from work. So he is watching footage from cameras in his home. Everything comes to a near-crashing halt when Bart views a murder occur in the room where he keeps the cameras. He immediately flees to the room in order to get the bugs out of the room. A co-worker catches him in the room, Bart doesn't do such a good job explaining himself and he soon becomes suspect one for the case. The hotel company eventually moves Bart to a different location. While working at the new location, he meets Andrea Rivera (Ana de Armas) and the quickly hit it off. During her time at the hotel, they create a bond and Bart actually opens up to her about his syndrome.

There is a man Andrea is seeing at the hotel this week. Apparently this man is married. Not to Andrea though. She is his secret lover and it is beginning to tear her apart. It doesn't help that Bart seems to like Andrea. But the secret Bart learns of the man Andrea is seeing changes everything forever.

It's a pretty tight thriller, with some big unevenness throughout the film. A bunch of information is dumped on the audience throughout the movie and there is no effort to make anything we learn compelling. The climax occurs simply because Bart finally decides to make a decision that hinges on the entire storyline. "The Night Clerk" could have easily been a short film, if the movie itself decided to finally get on with it. Still, even at feature length, the movie just kind of stops and that's the end. No real closure beyond that. We are not even sure if the killer gets caught or not.

I've never really known what to think of Tye Sheridan. He was a good kid actor growing up, but didn't get much off of him during his run as Cyclops in the X-Men movies nor in "Ready Player One." I have to say here though that he portrays Asperger incredibly well here, very vivid rendition of the condition that felt authentic. Ana de Armas has a striking rapport with Sheridan's Bart. She's kinda like the typical femme fatale we see in these kinds of movies, but with a genuine heart. It's uncanny work, and she does the most with the material. Armas is going on to big things, in case you were unsure. The film also features great supporting work by legends such as Helen Hunt and John Leguizamo.

Whether "The Night Clerk" works for you depends solely on you. Not sure how middle-of-the-road people are on this one. The performances are there, but the story is a mystery that never really feels urgent.

FINAL GRADE: C

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