15th Oct2020

‘The Doorman’ Blu-ray Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Ruby Rose, Jean Reno, Rupert Evans, Aksel Hennie, Julian Feder, David Sakurai, Louis Mandylor, Hideaki Ito, Kíla Lord Cassidy, Philip Whitchurch | Written by Lior Chefetz, Joe Swanson | Directed by Ryûhei Kitamura

Years ago, when DVD was in its infancy, I used to frequent a few DVD forums where people would discuss not only this new format but also have in-depth discussions about films that never made it to these shores – oftentimes due to said films getting fancy limited edition box set release; and sometimes (cough) bootleg (cough) discs of certain, more exploitative, films would be passed between members.

That’s how I discovered Versus, the third film from director Ryûhei Kitamura – as a bootleg DVDR. A bootleg without subtitles, without any information beyond the sheer enthusiasm other people had for the film. And I was blown away. Versus‘ reputation kept growing, eventually getting a legitimate UK DVD release from the now-defunct Tartan Films. It’s safe to say Versus put Kitamura on the international movie map. Unfortunately, judging by The Doorman, that version of Kitamura is gone… seemingly replaced by generic action director #12.

It truly is hard to believe that this is a film by the same director as Versus; hell by the same director as No One Lives – Kitamura’s 2012 US action thriller that I said, at the time of its UK release, was a “a return to form for Ryuhei Kitamura”. After watching The Doorman it looks like Kitamura has, sadly, lost that form. There’s absolutely nothing at all remarkable about this film, nothing that shows any sort of flair that the directors other films have had.

The only thing that is remarkable about The Doorman is fact that this films lead – a war veteran who returns home after a traumatic incident – is a woman. Yes, The Doorman turns that cliched action hero trope on its head by casting Ruby Rose as the lead. But that’s all the film has up its sleeve. There is an attempt to play up the PTSD aspect, with Rose’s former Marine character Ali Gorsky reliving her traumas and reflecting her mistakes on those she’s protecting in the building, and doing it all with a real dogged determination. But it’s not enough to save The Doorman from sheer mundanity; and a true “been there done that” feel.

It doesn’t help that, even with the trauma and the military backstory, Gorsky still feels wholly one-dimensional. As do the rest of the cast. They’re all the usual tropes and cliches of action cinema. Even Jean Reno is merely playing “international bad guy”, with none of his usual style and panache. The cast, nay the film itself, all seems like a wasted opportunity.

To be fair, the action of The Doorman is staged well. Rose looks tough and there’s some brutality (the use of a nail bomb for example) but this could be directed by anyone. You’d think there would be motivation for hiring the director of one of the greatest modern-day action movies; you think the producers would want to tap that resource to produce a fantastic fight flick. But the finished product here says otherwise…

** 2/5

The Doorman is available on DVD and Blu-ray, in the US, now from Artisan/Lionsgate.


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