Badass female protagonist vs. gang of male hostage-takers, a family in peril, a swanky building with secrets, martial arts fight scenes, and very slight character development. Director Ryûhei Kitamura effectively follows familiar models but can do significantly better.
This is a rare review that you don’t actually need to read if you’ve read my summary: watching The Doorman won’t do much more for you either. It’s alright, I suppose, but nobody (in front of or behind the camera) seems to put in more effort than the bare minimum. Not only that, but there is plenty more of the same out there to be found, much of it significantly better.
The Doorman is about former marine Ali Gorski (Ruby Rose, Batwoman), recently returned home from an unsuccessful security mission in eastern Europe, who takes a job as a doorman at a luxury apartment building in New York. She vainly assumes it will be a fairly safe environment in which to let the PTSD settle down, but when Ali pops in for a meal on what is supposed to be a weekend off, she finds herself defending her (somewhat estranged) family from a nasty gang of thieves under the leadership of Victor Dubois (Jean Reno, 22 Bullets).
Rose shows off more physical fight skills than I’d seen before, and it’s great to see another role in which she can be her naturally androgynous self. Unfortunately, this doesn’t compensate for the same mediocre acting as usual. Reno, too, has the stubbornly strong presence he’s known for; but this role seems to bore him. Some of the secondary cast were better – such as Aksel Hennie (The Cloverfield Paradox), who played Borz, the senior doorman – but I think if I remember anyone from this film, it will be the kids. Kíla Lord Cassidy and Julian Feder, who played Ali’s niece and nephew Lily and Max, probably had the most to prove and they both presented range and avoided being entirely clichéd.
The Doorman blends many tropes we’ve seen before: a short-haired woman who can look after herself (La Femme Nikita, etc.), home invasion (Panic Room, etc.), troubled ex-soldier (Disorder, etc.), protagonist dealing with hostage-takers during a holiday (Die Hard, etc.). And more! The gang leader swaps meaningless culture talk with one of the hostages, the gang are stupid and there’s some mild family angst to navigate: isn’t there always?
All of this may be fine if the writers and director were trying something for the first time, or – the opposite – producing a showcase of the best they can do. But this is not Ryûhei Kitamura’s first action film, and it is a long way from his best. He’s made films that had shocking surprises (No One Lives), thrilling fight scenes (Versus), and chilling horror (Midnight Meat Train). The Doorman, on the other hand, had virtually no tension and definitely nothing new. It was an entry-level action thriller at best. If you want to see a female lead putting a male gang in their place, watch Becky instead. I have no doubt Kitamura will be back on form at some point. The Doorman might satisfy a Ruby Rose fan, but it will disappoint a fan of the usually ambitious and exciting director.
The Doorman is available on Digital Download 18 January and DVD 25 January 2021 from Lionsgate UK.