Review: The Perfect Host (2011)

The Perfect Host

Rating

Director
Nick Tomnay
Screenplay
Krishna Jones, Nick Tomnay
Length
93 min.
Starring
David Hyde Pierce, Clayne Crawford, Tyrees Allen, Annie Campbell, Cooper Barnes, Indira Gibson, Joseph Will, Nathaniel Parker, Helen Reddy, Megahn Perry
MPAA Rating
R for language, some violent content and brief sexual material

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Review
One of the most irritating trends in Hollywood (and independents for that matter) these days is to deliver a terrific opening and then let the film go to seed late in the affair. You were hooked, but then let down. The Perfect Host does precisely this with a terrific opening two-thirds and a disappointing final act.

The story revolves around a career bank robber John Taylor (Clayne Crawford), recently paroled for his prior offense whose conducted a heist that leaves his foot badly injured and succumbing to a series of unfortunate post-robbery events that leave him seeking shelter in an upper class neighborhood. There, he meets Warwick Wilson (David Hyde Pierce), a mild-mannered homebody preparing his house for a dinner party. John greedily feeds Warwick lines about the travelling friend whose postcard has arrived in his mailbox. Yet, it’s Warwick who has the final laugh, having played John the entire time until he’s been drugged to unconsciousness and becomes the unwitting prisoner of a rather unusual “host”.

This is the kind of film that the unique twists are delivered early in the film, making it a challenge to review the content without giving away vital information. It’s the kind of experience that gets ruined easily, so I’ll endeavor to be evasive on details.

Warwick isn’t a normal man and its clear Hyde Pierce is having a blast playing the character. And in spite of Warwick’s rather bizarre nuances, you invariably like him. Yet, the dynamic between villain and victim shifts frequently in the story and while you start out in Warwick’s corner, you spend much of the film hoping for John to get free. Who you ultimately feel sympathy for depends on how you view the events that lead up to the boiler plate conclusion.

If Hyde Pierce is having the time of his life, Crawford seems bored out of his mind. His bank robber has plenty of chances to stare his situation in the face and make something courageous or valiant, but he frequently accepts the things happening to him like he’s secretly enjoying it. The scant reaction shots of his purported terror are filled with stiff manners and limited emotional range. He even gets the chance to be a romantic lead in the flashbacks yet doesn’t give the audience enough reason to love him.

There are a handful of supporting characters hanging out in the film, including Warwick’s four houseguests, Roman (Tyrees Allen), Chelsea (Annie Campbell), Rupert (Cooper Barnes) and Monica (Indira Gibson). These characters are simple archetypes and serve as outward symbols of Warwick’s subconscious. Simone (Meghan Perry) is a simple, uninteresting drapery as John’s love interest; and Detectives Valdez and Morton (Joseph Will and Nathaniel Parker respectively) are even more undefined than the partygoers. These latter three feeling so unimportant and lifeless doesn’t hamper the film much since the best elements all sit on Hyde Pierce’s shoulders and secondarily on the slightly more lifelike Crawford.

Director Nick Tomnay and co-writer Krishna Jones have a very compelling and original idea on their hands. This is carried out with a strong sense of purpose early in the film. The tendency in this type of film is to slide into familiar and rote stylistic flourishes attempting to establish yourself as some major indie voice. The Perfect Host remains faithful to its story by avoiding the excessiveness inherent in the medium and specifically in this genre. The lone convention employed for much of the film is a series of flashbacks examining all of the events that have led John to this most dangerous affair and even they are toned down enough to be modestly effective.

However, that’s just the first two-thirds of the film. After you discover John’s fate in Warwick’s hands, an admittedly clever conceit, the film takes another 30 minutes to wind down, shifting from tense suspense/thriller to paint-by-numbers heist drama. And even at the end of this utterly bland and lifeless final act, the conclusion further muddles the affair leaving you wondering why they even tried to offer up such a flimsy finale.
Review Written
November 9, 2011

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