The Perfect Host

28 Jul

Title: The Perfect Host
Year: 
2011
Director: 
Nick Tomnay
Writer: Nick Tomnay
Starring: 
David Hyde Pierce, Clayne Crawford, Nathaniel Parker
MPAA Rating: 
R, language, some violent content and brief sexual material
Runtime: 
93 min
Major Awards: –

IMDb Rating: 
7.0
Rotten Tomatoes: 
38%

 

This is Nick Tomnay’s debut feature film, and even though it’s a very uneven film, there were a couple of glimpses that showed some real promise, especially with how Mr. Tomnay handled his limited surroundings and characters, nicely introducing some surprising elements even though he didn’t have much to do it with. And you really get that that was pretty much all he was trying hard to do, to create that sort of thriller in which you really get the sense that anything can happen and that sort of feeling is what drives the whole movie. And it’s neat in the sense that really every turn the movie takes there a twist and a surprise. And while those elements are pretty damn satisfying at times, the predator in this film becomes the prey so many times that in the end you just can’t deal with it anymore because even as nicely executed as the twists may be, it all gets a bit too monotonous.

We have John, the character played by Clayne Crawford, a guy who has just made over a quarter of a million dollars in a bank robbery and seems to have gotten away with it. He needs a safehouse though, so that police don’t catch him, and so he talks his way into the home of Warwick Wilson, the character of David Hyde Pierce, alleging to having been mugged and having lost his luggage at the airport. The title of the movie comes from the fact that Warwick, a character at first not really that different from the awesome Niles Crane of Frasier which we all know Mr. Hyde Pierce from, is expecting dinner guests shortly and is putting the finishing touches on a certifiable feast. But then, once John has gotten into the house, comes a police report that alerts Warwick as to the real identity of his unexpected guest, and that’s when things turn ugly, with John holding a knife to Warwick’s throat and threatening to kill him.

I say that Warwick isn’t really that different than Niles because they both seem super mild-mannered and are gracious hosts. But then there’s the one big difference between Warwick and Niles, and that’s the fact that Warwick sometimes hallucinates and has all these underlying psychopathic tendencies. And so, quickly enough, the prey becomes the predator, as Warwick takes control of the situation and John ends up tied up and being witness to the dinner party Warwick was preparing for, one with guests that exist only in his head. And after that the movie just goes wild, with more twists and turns than you’ll be able to count by yourself.

The movie isn’t a straight thriller by the way, it has a lot of dark comedy, which I think is where it works best as Mr. Hyde Pierce, who gives it his all during the whole film, can really excel in these situations and it just elevates the whole product, how he can mix it up between the deranged treatment Warwick gives John to the more comic exchanges between him and his delusions, that stuff is all pretty darn fun to watch. The thing is that those are the funnest moments, the ones in which we get Warwick interacting with his hallucinations, but as good as Mr. Hyde Pierce is at playing that, I just though that Mr. Tomnay could have done so much more with what his lead actor was giving him, because if you’re gonna make Warwick be this sort of crazy guy, you should amp it up, and I don’t think Mr. Tomnay made that character seem as crazy as he potentially could have been.

Another thing that I don’t think Mr. Tomnay successfully pulled off, and on which a lot of the film’s success was relying upon, was making John a sympathetic character. Because this is a character that starts the film as a rather cruel character which we assume we must root against, but then once we realize the role reversal that just occurred Mr. Tomany quickly has to embed sympathetic traits to him, and it kind of works via some flashbacks that tells us more about him and as we realize that he’s just an ignorant criminal who wants to get back on a straight life, but I don’t know, it just never really clicked for me to connect to his story. I mean the film is based on a short Mr. Tomnay did a decade ago, and you get the impression that it probably should have remained that way, as you get a writer-director that just starts filling time with a lot twists and hunter-and-hunted role reversals probably just because he was given a whole extra hour to fill and he didn’t know what to do with it.

I’ll give The Perfect Host a grade that reflects I don’t really recommend it. Not because it’s bad, because it really isn’t, but it just really isn’t much of anything. It starts off fine, during the middle it starts getting shaky, and then we get that horrible third act that’s just simply all over the place and that deals with John’s backstory and the bank robbery, and that bit of the film had just so little logical connective tissue to everything we had watched before it that it totally lost me. I applaud a director that certainly was devoted in a more classic style of thriller construction, because the first few twists work well, but once we realize that there’ll be a new one every couple of scenes we can see them coming from miles away, and that’s what in the end made The Perfect Host seem like an unwanted guest who stayed too long.

Grade: C+

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