Directed by: Michael Cristofer
Premise: An overnight front desk employee (Tye Sheridan) observes hotel guests through secret cameras. When he records a murder, the desk worker tries to keep the cameras a secret and clear his name.
What Works: Ana de Armas is cast in a sort of femme fatale role as a mysterious hotel guest. The story puts her in an impossible scenario – de Armas’ character has to get emotionally involved with the night clerk played by Tye Sheridan. The artificiality of Sheridan’s performance makes this impossible to believe but de Armas makes that plot development much more credible than it would be otherwise. Helen Hunt is cast as the protective mother of Sheridan’s character and she gets a few effective moments as well.
What Doesn’t: The Night Clerk is a shoddy piece of work. The movie was shot digitally and it shows; the imagery is so clean that the artificiality of the makeup and sets is frequently obvious. But the cheap production values are the least of this movie’s problems. The Night Clerk is an attempt to make a character-driven thriller and it fails in both respects. The characters are not believable. The acting is often stilted and the characters do not behave credibly. Quite often these people behave in ways that are disconnected from the events they are participating in. Especially bad is Tye Sheridan in the lead role. His character is supposed to be on the autism spectrum but Sheridan comes across as someone pantomiming autism. His awkwardness plays forced and artificial and he is never convincing. The story of The Night Clerk alternates unnecessary plot developments with ludicrous reveals. Sheridan’s character has wired the hotel rooms with secret cameras which he claims to use for studying human behavior but it’s obvious that the clerk is motivated by a sexual and voyeuristic desire. The movie never does anything with that and ignores the creepiness inherent to the premise. When law enforcement believes that the clerk is the killer, all he has to do to clear his name is show them the footage. But Sheridan’s character doesn’t do that even after he’s lost his job. The plot of The Night Clerk hinges on a major coincidence. The big reveal is obvious well before it happens and when it does the credibility of the movie is shot.
DVD extras: None.
Bottom Line: The Night Clerk is a dreadful film—poorly acted, terribly written, and cheaply produced. It’s a wonder that this movie attracted such impressive acting talent and none of the players are able to save this film from such deeply rooted flaws.
Episode: #805 (June 21, 2020)