If she didn’t convince you in Batwoman or The Meg, The Doorman will prove why Ruby Rose is now a bona-fide action star. She shines in this Die Hard-inspired action romp, which although is as times uneven, provides plenty of B-movie thrills.
Rose plays Ali, a former bodyguard riddled with PTSD from a previous job gone awry, who settles down in a much more peaceful occupation: working as a doorman at a New York hotel. The film, penned by Lior Chefetz and Joe Swanson, interestingly addresses the sexual politics of a woman taking up a traditionally male occupation, with Ali palming off a chauvinistic guest, and takes some strides in furthering the female-led action subgenre. The plot is about as deep as you’d expect from this type of film, though: there’s cliché henchmen, a Bond-esque French villain (Jean Reno) and an all-too-convenient link between the action and Ali’s family, but it certainly does enough to service the film’s action.
And when bullets start flying and punches are thrown, it’s a very competent experience. The violence is gruesome and well-executed: you’ll see baddies on fire, shot in the head, or thrown across rooms, and while some of the camerawork is at times a little nauseating – occasionally bordering on out-of-focus – it doesn’t detract from the visual fun of the combat. The influence of tower-block classics like Die Hard and The Raid cannot be understated here: the claustrophobia of having the action take place in one setting, combined with an array of slimy goons (particularly a corrupt cop who is absolutely abhorrent) and a madcap villain with a zany plot all feels loyal to 80s action staples, and though this isn’t quite as influential as them, it’s a nice tribute.
Perhaps the most engaging quality is the villains. The action is led by Victor Dubois (Jean Reno), a gangster and art collector searching desperately for pieces worth tens of millions of dollars. Dubois fits the classic Bond villain mould – unhinged and madcap – but his menace is perhaps a little undeveloped. He’s clearly a threat, killing people and endangering innocents, but the main crux of his plan is simply demolishing hotel rooms, which isn’t nearly as threatening as his sidekick Borz (Aksel Hennie), who’s the vintage, deliciously evil baddie. It’s rare that precious art is the MacGuffin in a film, but perhaps Dubois could’ve been a little more threatening. Instead he feels just a bit like Mr. Burns: powerful, yes, but intimidating? Not quite.
Yet all of that plot isn’t really the focus here – the action is. Director Ryûhei Kitamura clearly has experience in tight, claustrophobic filmmaking (The Midnight Meat Train), which combines well with his previous action-based work on films like Azumi, making for an experience that shares traits of both. The hand-to-hand stuff is particularly well done – you won’t doubt for a second that Ruby Rose could take out a room of guards without breaking a sweat – and the slick homemade feel of the combat, with Ali crafting nailbombs and the like from scraps she finds in the hotel, makes it particularly engaging.
All that said, The Doorman certainly succeeds in what it aims for. It’s classic B-movie, with a zany villain and taut action, but it stumbles where many others in the genre also fail: the plot. You’ll find it hard to engage with the art-based conceit, but if it’s simple switch-your-brain-off violence that you’re looking for, let Ruby Rose lead the way.
The Doorman is available on Digital Download 18 January and DVD 25 January 2021 from Lionsgate UK
Amazon DVD: https://amzn.to/344UqEu