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November 17, 2012

The Perfect Host

by Franz Patrick


Perfect Host, The (2010)
★★ / ★★★★

John Taylor (Clayne Crawford) is on the run from the police because had just robbed a bank. As his face is broadcasted across homes, panic begins to set in. With a bit of luck, he looks inside a mailbox and finds a postcard signed by Julia who is currently in Australia. Out of desperation, John knocks on the door and Julia’s husband, Warwick (David Hyde Pierce), while preparing a gathering with friends, answers. John pretends to know Julia and Warwick welcomes the stranger with suspicion. Although John is a typical criminal, the host is entirely of another breed.

The greatest strength of “The Perfect Host,” written and directed by Nick Tomnay, is its constantly evolving storyline. It keeps the viewers interested by delivering sudden left turns. On one hand, it works as a thriller. We know something isn’t quite right with Warwick but it is difficult to pinpoint exactly what it is. Pierce does a good job moving from one extreme emotion to another. He is creepy yet slightly off from being very amusing. The way his character feigns certain emotions is like watching a possum playing dead. It is unnerving because it is difficult to fathom when he might strike.

The picture also works as a comedy, baiting uneasy chuckles as bizarre occurrences pile up. Warwick’s so-called friends are colorful, to say the least. Random dance sequences appear out of the blue. The interruption of tone is jarring but it works for itself considering Warwick’s fractured mind. The writer-director, I think, wants us to experience the way the host sees the world, how it does not always makes sense since he is unhinged.

Less effective is the utilization of flashbacks. They are designed to make John seem like a good person so the audience would care about his fate. Looking back in time is unnecessary; his past is uninteresting because the current predicament he finds himself in is so intense. He has a lot to lose and interrupting the interactions between he and Warwick lessens the picture’s dramatic momentum. Further, there are details about how the protagonist manages to pull off a bank heist. This, too, does not work. There are other ways in which the writer-director could have shown us that John has a sharp mind. After all, he manages to outsmart his cunning predator a couple of times.

Lastly, the detectives (Nathaniel Parker, Joseph Will) in charge of capturing the bank robber are written in a way that does not match the darkly thrilling, darkly comic tone of the material. Every line delivered is transparent, commanding no intrigue or mystery at all. There is nothing interesting about them and how they stumble upon certain clues.

“The Perfect Host” might have turned out to be a better film had it focused more on the happenings inside the posh home. A typical criminal is thrown into a ring with the type of criminal that hides behind luxuries and nicely tailored suits. What are their commonalities and differences? Which is the more dangerous of the two? Despite having the opportunity, such questions are not explored on a deeper level. I wish it had been more ambitious because it had a lot of things going for it.

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