NIGHT CLERK, THE
(director/writer: Michael Cristofer; cinematographer: Noah Greenberg; editor: Kristi Shimek; music: Erik Hall; cast: Tye Sheridan (Bart Bromley), Ana de Armas (Andrea Rivera), Helen Hunt (Ethel Bromley), John Leguizamo (Johnny Espada), Johnathon Schaech (Nick Perretti), Jacque Gray (Karen Perrette), Austin Archer (Jack); Runtime: 90; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Arianne Fraser, Tye Sheridan, David Wulf; Saban Films; 2020)
“Not too many discernible thrills.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
The first film for the septuagenarian Michael Cristofer (“Gia”/”Body Shots”) since his poorly reviewed 2001’s Original Sin. The-actor-turned-filmmaker is also a Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright for 1977’s The Shadow Box. His film is an exploitative crime drama about a young man with Asperger’s who becomes a suspect for murder because of his odd behavior.
The 23-year-old techie whiz with Asperger’s is Bartholomew “Bart” Bromley (Tye Sheridan), who is also considered a bit weird and creepy. Somewhere in Utah, he works nights as a hotel clerk, at a place that takes pride in hiring personnel with handicaps. Though living with his well-meaning but destructive enabling protective mom (Helen Hunt), he likes to stay in the basement apartment of their bungalow. To improve his skills in communication (like learning how to make eye-contact), Bart spies on the hotel guests through the hidden cameras he installed in many of the guest rooms (for some reason, the filmmaker thinks of this voyeurism as OK when it’s clearly not).
One night Karen Perretti (Jacque Gray) checks into the hotel, as Bart’s co-worker Jack (Austin Archer) arrives early to relieve him. Thereby Bart goes home and witnesses on his laptop Karen being assaulted during an argument with a mysterious male figure distinguished only by his visible tattoo. When Bart returns to Karen’s room to help, he hears a gunshot and finds her corpse on the floor. After reporting the shooting to the authorities, Bart is transferred to a smaller budget hotel in the chain, where he meets the flirty young attractive hotel guest Andrea (Ana de Armas). The two quickly become friends after she tells Bart that he reminds her of her brother, who also has Asperger’s syndrome. Bart thinks there’s a possible romance looming, as he places his secret cameras in her room and the two begin a relationship. We soon learn her motives for befriending him are a bit more complicated than his reasons for befriending her.
Homicide Detective Espada (John Leguizamo) investigates the murder and is not satisfied with Bart’s responses, and thereby fingers him as the prime suspect. Meanwhile the victim’s husband (Johnathon Schaech) presses the police for answers. We also learn that Bart ignored the warning by the hotel manager not to touch anything at the crime scene, as he couldn’t resist putting his fingers in the woman’s blood on the floor. This is proof enough for the detective that he got the murderer.
Though calling itself a thriller, there were not too many discernible thrills. Even if it adequately sets up a noir film atmosphere and has a sympathetic protagonist despite his awkward social interactions and his criminal use of cameras. The main problem is that the story goes nowhere, it offers no twists and it leaves us with an empty feeling about the resolution because the filmmaker doesn’t seem to care if the killer is caught or not. The messy film left me wondering what is it trying to say.
REVIEWED ON 2/28/2020 GRADE: C+