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“The Night Clerk” Makes Menial Use Of Ana De Armas And Tye Sheridan

High art and low art is at war with itself in The Night Clerk, a thriller with aims to be something more. At times, this independent film offers up an intriguing look at an unusual protagonist. At other points, however, it falls victim to cheesy B movie tropes, torpedoing its effectiveness. A surprisingly stacked cast is underwhelming, largely due to the material, preventing them from elevating things much. For every moment that compels, at least one other confounds. This flick has the kernel of something interesting within it, but sadly it’s too far concealed within mediocrity to be worthy of a recommendation. Opening this week, it’s a misfire, all in all.

The film is a thriller with some light character study elements thrown in. Bart Bromley (Tye Sheridan) is a night clerk at a hotel chain. Highly intelligent but on the autism spectrum, Bart spends his days observing people, hoping to imitate them and fit in. He even employs some rather questionable methods in order to do so. One night, his observational tactics lead him to witness a woman being murdered at the hotel. Unable to explain how he knows about the murder, Bart quickly becomes a person of interest for Detective Johnny Espada (John Leguizamo), the lead investigator on the case. As the police look into the death, Bart is moved to another hotel, where he actually makes a connection with a mysterious and stunning guest named Andrea (Ana de Armas). Smitten, Bart becomes convinced that he has a future with Andrea, though her connection to the man he believes is the murderer obviously complicates things. Somehow, Bart needs to figure it out before the cops pin everything on him. Michael Cristofer writes and directs, with cinematography by Noah Greenberg, as well as music by Erik Hall. Supporting players include Jacque Gray, Helen Hunt, Johnathon Schaech, and more.

A cast led by Tye Sheridan, featuring both Ana de Armas and Helen Hunt, as well as others, should offer up more than this movie is ultimately able to. Sheridan tries hard in the lead, but the character is so broadly written, his tics come off too theatrical and not at all believable. He’s the focus, so that leaves very little for de Armas and Hunt to make much of an impact. Both are incredibly talented actresses, so it’s fair to want more from them. Unfortunately, filmmaker Michael Cristofer does not deliver. The writer/director leans more into the noir aspects of the flick, which never quite pays dividends.

The Night Clerk thinks it’s both smarter and more twist laden than it is. The story itself comes closer to B movie territory than prestige indie material. The aforementioned cast can’t do much with what Cristofer gives them, so the plot actually needed to stand on its own, and that’s decidedly not the case. Even at just 90 minutes long, it feels drawn out, especially towards the end when the “twists” start to come into play. A last minute move towards a happy ending meshes poorly with what has come before, though at the same time, the dour moments beforehand don’t work well, either.

This weekend, Saban Films is hoping that the rising star of Ana de Armas attracts some viewers and gets them to check out The Night Clerk. Unfortunately, it’s not a terribly strong showcase for her, so fans of hers will have to wait for other 2020 releases in order to fully appreciate the breakout Knives Out star. There are solid elements here, but just not enough to be worth your time. It’s hardly terrible, but it’s ultimately bland and leaves you wanting more.

The Night Clerk is in theaters this Friday.

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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