Stop me if you’ve heard this one. A decorated military veteran suffers a traumatizing event in the line of duty and heads to the city to recuperate, only to find more trouble lying in wait. Sudden Death. Speed. Skyscraper. Under Siege. The Rock. Passenger 57. White House Down. Con Air. Die Hard. Whether it be wreaking havoc on a bus, calculated action within the confines of a small ship or ravaging the top floors of the Nakatomi Plaza, the notion of a highly skilled assassin winding up at the wrong place at the wrong time and having to fight his way out is a narrative that many action movies have come to follow, with little distinction between the masses.
Luckily, The Doorman is here to put a new spin on the old familiar trope by giving audiences what they really want: The Midnight Meat Train director Ryûhei Kitamura guiding action star Ruby Rose in a bloody battle down to the last man standing.
Starring Rose as former U.S. Marine Ali Gorsky. The film begins with a flashback to the American Embassy in Bucharest. Romania where the Sergeant fails to protect a diplomat and her daughter from international terrorists. While transporting the family through a clearing in the woods. The precious cargo comes under attack from all sides, the cars flipping and burning and popping and exploding like oil in a frying pan. One week later, Gorsky wakes up in New York City, alone, unemployed and irrevocably scarred.
While drowning her sorrows at the local pub with her Uncle Pat (Philip Whitchurch). Gorsky keeps insisting that she’s fine. She just needs a job that can help her pay her pills now that the military has quietly cast her aside. Her shell-shocked hallucinations in the cab on the way over suggest different. But as a vet himself, her uncle knows better than to push. Pat brings his niece onboard as the new doorman at The Carrington. A luxurious old five-star hotel undergoing several renovations and mostly empty for Easter weekend. For a fleeting moment, it appears as though she might just be on the path back to normalcy. That is, until Jean Reno’s Victor Dubois starts knocking down walls and killing off trespassers while in the midst of hunting down expensive works of art, supposedly hidden somewhere on the property.
While working at the hotel, Gorsky runs into an old flame and his two young children in a romantic subplot that feels completely contrived and unnecessary. In a strange turn of events, this odd little marital affair is shockingly similar to the adultery revealed in 32 Malasaña Street, another Nightstream title, which not only asks the question of why filmmakers feel it’s so crucial to make their characters cheat. But more importantly, sheds light on the cliché of women sleeping with their best friend’s husbands, or their sister’s husbands. And how tired that trope feels in 2020.
Even Palm Springs offers up the same exact scenario, only with the betrayal happening the night before the wedding as opposed to long after the nuptials are recited. Filmmakers, for the sake of audiences everywhere, please stop making your female leads unfaithful with people in their inner circle. There’s other ways to flesh out women characters, I promise.
A more effective way to explore Gorksy’s psyche and establish her as a tough cookie with inner turmoil is to grapple with the PTSD she is clearly experiencing as a result of her distress in Romania. After losing one child and her mother to the debauchery of war. Gorksy is being saddle with the responsibility of now protecting not just one. But two children while a hail of gunfire rains down on them wherever they go.
However, instead of using this through line to better investigate the repercussions of a single soldier carrying the weight of the world on their shoulders, greater attention is paid to Max’s grievances, the little brother played by Julian Feder with whom Gorsky is tasked to guard. Max has always been a bit of a reluctant layabout, running scared at the sight of his own shadow. But with Gorksy’s help. He’s able to overcome his fears and grow as a person. It’s touching, but it would’ve nice to see the same thought and care put into Gorksy’s character. Who remains somewhat static throughout the feature.
An unexpected but welcome addition to this single location thriller is the advent of hidden doors concealed within the walls of the ancient hotel. While Dubois is busy searching for his lost paintings downstairs in the apartment, Max is stealthily leading his sister and Auntie Ali through the undisclosed passageways, pulling old books off of bookcases, opening secret doors and disappearing into the dark. Tunnels left behind by bootleggers and petty thieves, now serving as nifty escape routes that allow the gang to move around the premises without being seen, hiding from the bad guys in plain sight. It’s a charming little detail that helps distinguish this cinematic adventure from the many Die Hard copycats that came before, while simultaneously proving that the trained killer in tow isn’t the only weapon in this crew’s arsenal.
At the end of the day, the film’s shortcomings are wholly understandable. With a movie like The Doorman, you get what you paid for. This isn’t exactly a multi-layered, intricately navigated slow-burn cerebral thriller. This is a movie you watch at midnight with your friends. The volume at full blast and the spirits flowing freely. Machine guns. Claustrophic fight scenes. Large scale set pieces. Hand to hand combat. Grenade launchers. Heists gone wrong. Pompous pretenders electrocuted on sight. Hardened criminals tapping on the door of secretive steel coated safes. Tiny fighters hurdling over knife wielding giants. Massive explosions. The sheer power of Ruby Rose’s jawline. The greatest mistake the devil ever made was underestimating a woman with a gun, and director Kitamura has come to collect.