Movie Review: Hospitality (2018)

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Donna (Emmanuelle Chriqui) may no longer be a prostitute but she still has a pimp of sorts in the form of JR Bourne's menacing sheriff.

Bullying her physically, emotionally, and sexually, at the start of this retro indie, he conditions her with a slap before literally acting out the rewind button of a VCR when she fails to greet him in the manner he requires.

Hospitality, it seems, is still her business and the sheriff takes a cut of every hour a guest stays at the bed-and-breakfast Donna converted from a brothel roughly twenty years ago upon discovering she was pregnant with her eighteen-year-old cognitively challenged son Jimmy (Conner McVicker).

Celebrating her son's birthday on the very same day that Sam Trammell's handsome drifter Cam checks in for the second time in twenty years after a long stint in prison, much like the fresh towels and linens supplied in Donna's dully named B&B Hospitality, the titular film wastes no time serving up all of the elements needed for B-movie thrills later on.

From the two men on opposite sides of the law – and the protagonist with a past caught in between them – to the gun and cash that are flashed onscreen within the first half, writer-directors Nick Chakwin and David Guglielmo's intentional play on The Postman Always Rings Twice styled like "the cinematic equivalent" of a paperback* turns the pages quickly in this fast-paced, roughly 80 minute offering.

And while the talented cast, especially the always underutilized Emmanuelle Chriqui (who made me see her in a whole new light opposite Simon Baker in The Mentalist), help give the admittedly dubious film a much-needed level of authenticity, by the time it reaches its second or third the overly convenient plot twist, Hospitality has damn near broken our suspension-of-disbelief.

Lacking much-needed data regarding how and why she has the arrangement with the sheriff aside from a few context clues that would have been much more fascinating to explore aloud instead of an exchange about whether or not Donna is on the pill (which a couple regularly having sex would've already had), Hospitality builds an air of Noir without a solid foundation.

As such, it misses some key plot points and borrows others from Noir efforts both old and new including No Country for Old Men in particular.

And while ultimately the film's impressive cast as well as the decision to move as fast as possible until the wheels come off hold our interest long enough that we look forward to what's next from the filmmakers, in the end we wish that this – their second feature – had delivered more than just the bare minimum of Noir hospitality.

*As described by the filmmakers in the production notes.

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