Regular readers will know that I’m a fan of the Die Hard formula; there’s nothing like being pinned down in one location to raise the temperature and the tension. Urban-fantasy action is a genre permanently in vogue thanks to the ongoing John Wick franchise, and that’s the jumping off point for Ryuhei Kitamura’s bare-bones thriller, which features John Wick 2’s Ruby Rose as a heroine. Rose has popped up in the XXX and Meg franchises to no great effect, but she’s a happy centre for this kind of unassuming crowd-pleaser; why wouldn’t you want to see Die Hard revamped with a lesbian vegan protagonist kicking ass?
The Doorman isn’t quite as much fun as that sounds; there’s a beyond convoluted back-story to unravel to understand Ali (Rose) an ex-Marine, somehow ends up working as a doorman in a posho NYC apartment block, called The Carrington. Ali’s charm and athletic abilities win plenty of friends amongst the residents, but her PTSD from a previous mission makes it hard for her to socialise. She’s meant to be enjoying a day-off when the building is locked-down by criminal art dealer Victor Dubois (Jean Reno), who is keen to bust a few secret Caravaggio’s out of a resident’s hidden safe.
One of the strengths of the Die Hard formula, which provided a platform for the best films of Steven Seagal in Under Siege and Jean-Claude Van Damme in Sudden Death, is that there’s plenty of time to hang out with the bad guys and understand their plan. This one almost goes too far; it takes Dubois a good 50 minutes to find the safe, so there’s also plenty of time to explore Ali’s relationship to lovable moppet children, and her friendship with an elderly couple. Indeed, Ali is a veritable Mary Poppins, winning hearts and minds as she goes, then kicking butt when things spiral out of control; it’s a calculated contradiction that Kitamura never quite resolves, and the cartoonish quality doesn’t lend much in the way of credibility.
And yet The Doorman is an effective time-waster, and one that gains energy from Reno’s suave villain, some decent fights, and Rose’s unfamiliar but considerable presence as a lead. While this isn’t a game-changing masterpiece by any stretch, The Doorman will certainly do the business for a late-night, undemanding, satisfying watch; Rose may have been cast as a pretty face in other films, but she proves here that she’s got the moves to be a woke, modern action star in the 2020’s.