Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (October 15, 2020)
When we last saw Ruby Rose, she starred as the lead character on TV’s Batwoman. Rose chose to leave the series after one season, and 2020’s direct-to-video film The Doorman finds her first work post-Batwoman.
Once a Marine, Ali Gorski (Rose) now operates as a doorman – doorwoman? doorperson? – at a fancy New York City high-rise. A traumatic incident occurred while on duty to protect the daughter of an ambassador, so she now prefers a more tranquil job.
Matters take a turn when a criminal gang led by Victor Dubois (Jean Reno) infiltrates the building to steal art. This acts as a threat to the complex’s inhabitants, so Ali uses her abilities to stop them.
So… “Die Hard With a Doorman”? That synopsis certainly leaves that impression, as one expects it to follow the same kind of high-energy tale as the 1988 classic.
I wrote that paragraph before I actually watched Doorman, and I assumed the similarities with Die Hard would remain superficial. However, Doorman takes the connection much more literally than I anticipated.
Like Die Hard, Doorman features a protagonist who visits estranged family. Both take place in essentially empty buildings, and both boast sophisticated European criminal masterminds.
Doorman finds some of its own ways to tell the Die Hard story, so it doesn’t offer a total replica. Still, the similarities feel more than superficial.
Alas, Doorman doesn’t even vaguely compare to Die Hard. Heck, it’s not Die Hard 2 - or even Live Free or Die Hard.
No - Doorman is A Good Day to Die Hard. By far the worst of the series, Good Day brought a nearly unwatchable effort that maligned the Die Hard name.
Actually, by comparison with Good Day, Doorman doesn’t look so terrible, but don’t take that as praise. Whereas Good Day brought an actively awful film, Doorman just seems cliché and uninspired.
Really, Doorman offers nothing more than a limp copy of Die Hard, as outside of the gender switch for its lead, it can’t find anything new to do with the concepts. That said, as our protagonist, Rose certainly pulls off the role’s physical elements in a way Bruce Willis couldn’t.
Rose boasts a lithe physicality that Willis lacked. Don’t take that as criticism of Willis, of course, as his John McClane shouldn’t have been more than the bull in a China shop he was.
Still, it’s fun to see a “John McClane Type” who shows real dimensionality in her battles. Rose manages to kick butt in a vivid and believable way.
Unfortunately, Rose’s fights can’t compensate for her decidedly lackluster acting skills, as she fails to create an actual human being via Ali. Much of the charm found in Die Hard stemmed from Willis’s smart-ass charisma, but Ali just seems limp and dull.
Over his career, Reno has displayed ample acting talent, but as Doorman’s version of Hans Gruber, he flops. Reno appears to understand that he’s slumming with this cheap rip-off, and he “acts down” to the part.
This means Victor turns into one of the least interesting cinematic baddies I’ve seen in a while. Of course, I don’t expect Reno to make the same impact as Die Hard’s Alan Rickman, for that would almost literally be impossible.
Rickman’s Hans brought a creative twist on the usual nefarious villain, as Rickman gave us a super-intelligent, charming, ingratiating criminal who also came across as utterly ruthless. Hans remains arguably the greatest character of that sort in movie history.
On the other hand, Reno’s Victor ends up as just some guy. As alluded, Reno appears bored in the role, and perhaps vaguely embarrassed as well. He can’t – or won’t – find any personality in the part.
Just because Doorman offers a derivative story doesn’t mean it can’t entertain. Unfortunately, the end product squanders any and all chances for success. With a clumsy script, lackluster production values and iffy performances, the movie becomes a dull chore to watch.