US / 93 minutes / color / STI, Mark Victor, Perfect Host, Preferred Content, Magnet Dir: Nick Tomnay Pr: Mark Victor, Stacey Testro Scr: Nick Tomnay, Krishna Jones Cine: John Brawley Cast: David Hyde Pierce, Clayne Crawford, Nathaniel Parker, Megahn Perry, Helen Reddy, Tyrees Allen, Cooper Barnes, Annie Campbell, Indira Wilson, George Kee Cheung, Brooke “Mikey” Anderson.
After sticking up a bank with the connivance of his bank-teller girlfriend Simone De Marchi (Perry), John Taylor (Crawford), limping from a bad foot injury and having lost his wallet to a junkie (Anderson) during a convenience-store robbery, seeks refuge by talking his way into a stranger’s house. In the mailbox of Warwick Wilson (Pierce) he finds a postcard sent from Australia by “Julie” and, ringing the doorbell, claims to be a friend who met Julie in Oz and was told by her to look Warwick up.
The fey-seeming Warwick invites him in to make a phone call to the cops to report his lost wallet and eventually asks him to join the dinner party whose other guests are expected imminently. Soon John reveals his true colors, telling Warwick he might, just might, spare his life if he cooperates. (“You can’t kill me,” Warwick responds. “I’m having a dinner party.”) But Warwick has drugged his wine and, when John wakens, it’s to find the boot very firmly on the other foot: Warwick is now the one in control of the situation. Also, Warwick’s guests—Monica (Wilson), Chelsea (Campbell), Roman (Allen) and Rupert (Barnes)—have arrived . . . except that Warwick is the only one who can see them, converse with them, etc.; from John’s viewpoint, Warwick is interacting with empty space.
This effect is very cleverly achieved in the movie: as the “dinner party” progresses, we’re never quite sure if any particular shot will or won’t include the animatedly participating “guests”, and because of this our suspicion grows that John is, in fits and starts, beginning to see them as clearly as Warwick does.
. . . and now you don’t.
The night wears on, with Warwick tormenting John like a small child with a favorite plaything and the “guests” intermittently reappearing—as does Warwick’s inquisitive elderly neighbor Cathy Knight (Reddy). In the morning John manages to get free and we discover, in a complete reversal of our preconceptions, that the delusional Warwick is actually a senior cop—and, furthermore, a senior cop determined to get his own greedy little hands on the $300,000 that John stole from the bank. Just to add to the convolutions of the plot, Simone, whose supposed critical illness and inability to afford proper medical treatment was John’s motive for sticking up the bank, appears to have been faking it, and to have been planted on John by Warwick.
This is obviously nonsensical plotting (how could Warwick have guaranteed that it was to his door that John would come?) but by this stage of the movie our minds have been so bombarded by the plethora of other surreal events that it seems to make perfect sense—as does the fact that the actor playing Detective Morton, the cop who begins to suspect that his boss, Warwick, might be a crook, is played by Nathaniel Parker, familiar as a completely different cop on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, Inspector Lynley in the longrunning (2001–2007) BBC TV series.
The Perfect Host is such a quirky movie—a concatenation of quirks, really—that it’s hard to know how to judge it. It’s a dark comedy, perhaps, except that most of the laughter it inspires doesn’t come from its relatively few jokes but is really at ourselves for being persuaded by the movie’s cleverness into accepting such a farrago as if it were plausible. Although it sits quite comfortably in the neonoir category, with its twisty plot and its unexpected volte faces, it’s really not so much a neonoir as a very knowing, very self-aware parody of neonoir. Leaving such definitional issues aside, what The Perfect Host is, most of all, is extraordinarily entertaining.
On Amazon.com: The Perfect Host