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Hotel Noir: Film Review

"Hotel Noir"

The Bottom Line

A first-rate cast and stunning black-and-white visuals aren't enough to make this homage to classic film noir successful.

Director/screenwriter

Sebastian Gutierrez

Cast

Malin Akerman, Kevin Connolly, Rosario Dawson, Danny DeVito, Robert Forster, Carla Gugino, Mandy Moore, Rufus Sewell.

Sebastian Gutierrez's black-and-white film starring Danny DeVito, Rosario Dawson and Malin Akerman involves a robbery, a briefcase full of loot and many shady characters.

It takes more than shooting a film in black and white to make it a worthy entry in the film noir genre, as demonstrated by Sebastian Gutierrez’ Hotel Noir. Not quite able to make up its mind whether it’s a parody or homage, this tired exercise wastes both its gorgeous visuals and a first-rate cast.

The derivative screenplay makes sure to include the standard archetypes, including a hard-boiled detective and a gorgeous femme-fatale, played by Rufus Sewell and Carla Gugino respectively. Their characters become involved in a plot that--true to so many vintage noir films, such as the infamous The Big Sleep—is barely comprehensible. Suffice it to say that it involves a robbery, a briefcase full of loot, and more shady characters than Dashiell Hammett could have dreamed of.

There’s also a bizarre comic framing device, involving Danny DeVito as a shower door salesman who somehow finds himself in sexual situations with gorgeous women, including a hotel chambermaid (Rosario Dawson) with a penchant for wearing both sexy lingerie and superhero outfits, and who may or may not be writing the story unfolding on the screen.

Add to the mix a beautiful dancer named Swedish Mary (Malin Akerman) who not-so-convincingly pretends to be Italian; a jealous boyfriend (Kevin Connolly); a lesbian tennis player (Cameron Richardson); a crooked cop (Robert Forster) and confusingly shifting narrators, and it becomes obvious that the writer/director clearly lost his bearings somewhere along the way.

The purposefully anachronistic dialogue, often delivered at top speed, is more tiresome than witty, making one wonder why Mel Brooks never tried his hand at a private-eye spoof. The performers alternately attempt to play the material straight and push for laughs, the result being a jarring tonal inconsistency from which the film never recovers.

Still, Hotel Noir at least gets the look right. The stunning Gugino looks like she stepped out of the 1940s, and Sewall, despite his character’s being inexplicably British, is a worthy successor to Bogart and Mitchum. The film was shot almost exclusively at Los Angeles’ vintage Biltmore Hotel, which effortlessly results in perfect period atmosphere. Too bad, then, that the film itself feels all dressed up with nowhere to go.

Opens Oct. 12 (Shangri-La Entertainment)
Production: Gato Negro Films
Cast: Malin Akerman, Kevin Connolly, Rosario Dawson, Danny DeVito, Robert Forster, Carla Gugino, Mandy Moore, Rufus Sewell
Director/screenwriter: Sebastian Gutierrez
Producers: Steve Bing, Sebastian Gutierrez, Zach Schwartz
Director of photography: Cale Finot
Editors: Lisa Bromwell, John Wesley Whitton
Production designer: Jeffrey Macintyre
Costume designer: Betsy Heimann
Composers: Robin Hannibal, Mathieu Schreyer
Not rated, 97 min.