The Night Clerk: Is The Movie As Bad As They Say?

The night clerk movie review

What I tell people who are new to writing movie reviews is do not to read other reviews. When you read reviews of more accomplished reviewers, they get into your head and they lead you into thinking their way. But I am not new to reviews. So I went on to read reviews of “The Night Clerk” and they are terrible. Writing in, the reviewer wrote that “It would probably be for the best if the film was just forgotten. Especially for Sheridan, who’s painfully miscast in the title role” before concluding, “Is this a director whose skills have dropped off after a nearly two-decade gap… or was the skill never really there, to begin with? Again, the simpler answer is usually the correct one.”

In, the reviewer was shorter but not in any way flattering with the conclusion reading, “Forget the half-baked investigation and quarter-baked love story—the real mystery here is how this movie is so boring.” The New Yorker went as far as to involve the autistic people and organizations: “I suspect the time is coming when the autistic community is going to demand a stop to showy performances of the condition.” And they have their reasons. “Using autism as a plot device walks a fine line between empathetic and exploitative, and ‘The Night Clerk’ is wobbly in that respect.”

This set of reviews reminds me of the negativity that broke loose when Dan Brown published “The Da Vinci Code”. One of the reviewers wrote that the novel was so bad it gave bad novels a bad name. The novel wasn’t that bad but it was based on a false premise in which the author tried to pass as “fact”. Dan Brown deserves all the bricks hurled his way. In fact, someone should have taken his shinbone and beaten him with it. But is “The Night Clerk” bad enough to be spoken in the same sentence as Dan Brown’s terrible offering? Is it as bad as the reviews say? Well, it is a complicated question.

The Night Clerk: Is it so bad?

This shouldn’t be the first question. The first question should be: Did you understand the movie? Written and directed by Michael Cristofer and produced by David Wulf, the movie centers around the character of Bart played by Tye Sheridan, a night clerk in a hotel where he spies on the guests by hiding CCTV cameras in strategic parts of their rooms. He watches them from his desk, from his iPad, and from his home. He has Asperger’s syndrome and he hides under the guise that he is using these videos to practice speaking like normal people to feast on his victims at various degrees of nakedness. He usually selects the prettiest women for the closest watch.

I don’t know what the makers of this movie tried to achieve? If they wanted to show us the struggles of someone with Asperger’s syndrome who is caught in a criminal maze, they brushed that but they actually showed us an Asperger’s syndrome patient who is a creep. There is no single feeling of empathy for the character and condition of Bart. This would have been the best place to start out from, giving us a character we can sympathize with and relate to.

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The woman Bart is monitoring more prominently is murdered in her hotel room. Bart rushes to the hotel room to save her but he is too late. Instead, he leaves his fingerprints all over the place and he becomes the main suspect of the crime. Bart is taken out of this hotel to another hotel because the owner doesn’t feel it is the right thing to do by firing Bart.

At the new hotel, Bart meets another pretty woman Andrea played by “Knives Out” star Ana de Armas. She tries to make conversation with him and is hit by cryptic answers. It seems the whole thing with the earlier woman would be repeated and it is repeated but not quite. It seems Andrea is using Bart to pass time and more than that, to grab hold of his evidence against her lover in the murder in the other hotel. She comes offering a naked lap and willing lips.

And then there is that terrible ending. At the end of the show, we see Bart walking in a mall saying “Hey, how are you doing?” to random passersby and to no one. Did this scene come before or after the gunshot in Bart’s room which sends his mother hysterical? Is there even a gunshot or is the gunshot we hear from the murder earlier in the film? There is a lot of flashbacks around this time and it is hard to say which is which.

The makers of this movie didn’t do themselves a lot of favor with the presentation of the story. The story doesn’t make sense and that is where they lost a lot of points. My default response with pieces of arts that have a lot of negative reviews is to go out of my way to look for redeeming points. “The Night Clerk” didn’t give me a lot. In defense of “The Night Clerk”, trying to catch straw here, the movie didn’t infuriate me like so many movies I have watched of recent (like this one and this one). But this is not a good point. The fact that the movie didn’t infuriate shows that it isn’t important enough (or, to use the truer phrase, not good enough) to elicit any strong emotion. Perhaps it is indeed as bad as the reviews elsewhere say about it.

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Amos JC

Amos JC

Amos JC is the head of movies and TV content.