The Doorman: Door Hard, by David Bax
At about the point in The Doorman where things have started to get really hairy, a sullen teen boy witnesses our hero, Ali Gorski (Ruby Rose), kill a bad guy with her bare hands. Smirking at his shocked face, she asks rhetorically, “Not like your videogames, is it?” That’s almost indefensibly bad dialogue but, with Rose’s action-movie-poster-ready face and Ryûhei Kitamura’s brawny, unpretentious direction, it’s all part of the fun. The Doorman is full of terrible lines, wooden acting and blatant exposition–gee, I wonder if those secret passages and the sealed up subway tunnel will come into play later?–but it’s also undeniably fun, face value entertainment.
Ali has recently left the military after her security assignment, protecting a U.S. ambassador, went tragically wrong. Looking for low stakes employment, her handyman uncle (Philip Whitchurch) gets her a job as a doorman in the New York City apartment building where he works and which is, for the moment, almost completely empty, most residents having been temporarily relocated due to major renovations. Almost immediately after learning that her estranged brother-in-law (Rupert Evans) and his kids–precocious Lily (Kíla Lord Cassidy) and aforementioned sullen teen Max (Julian Feder)–are among the tenants still on the premises, a group of thieves led by the suave and dastardly Victor Dubois (Jean Reno) take the building hostage while they search for priceless works of art hidden in a heavy duty safe somewhere in the building.
So there’s a hero new to her surroundings, a building under construction, family in peril, a charismatic European villain, even the ticking clock of getting the safe cracked; this is not even pretending to be anything other than a Die Hard ripoff. It even has two of the henchmen bickering as they cut the building’s power.
This time around, though, it’s not just the thieves with the international pedigree. Reflecting its budget-friendly Romanian production, The Doorman is a delightful hodgepodge of accents. The Australian Rose is doing American but her uncle is Irish and her brother-in-law is English (what a backstory this family must have!), her coworker Borz is Norwegian (Aksel Hennie from Headhunters and Pioneer) and the Moroccan-born Reno’s crew includes Rose’s fellow Aussie Louis Mandylor.
There’s a twist that comes early in The Doorman but it will be easy to guess once you’re keyed into the movie’s belief that people who appreciate things like classical music and fine art are amoral debauchees (except for the ones that are feckless weaklings). It’s appalling, sure, but this anti-intellectualism only makes The Doorman part of the long tradition of conservatism in pleasurable B-movies.
In other words, it’s a throwback, which holds true for the way Kitamura executes action scenes. With a couple of welcome exceptions, like a dizzyingly cartwheeling camera in the final showdown and at least one moment of horror-level inventive gore, the fights are workmanlike, uncompromising and doled out at regular but not overwhelming intervals. Plus there’s even some ingeniously deadly MacGyver shit. The Doorman is an obvious imitation of better films but it’s honest and it’s clearly made by and for people who appreciate a good action flick.