Review: ‘The Price We Pay’ (2023), starring Emile Hirsch and Stephen Dorff

February 27, 2023

by Carla Hay

Emile Hirsch in “The Price We Pay” (Photo courtesy of Lionsgate)

“The Price We Pay” (2023)

Directed by Ryûhei Kitamura

Culture Representation: Taking place in New Mexico, the horror film “The Price We Pay” features a predominantly white cast of characters (with one Latina and one Asian person) representing the working-class, middle-class and criminal underground.

Culture Clash: Three criminals kidnap a woman during an armed robbery of a pawn shop, and the four of them end up at a remote farm inhabited by a family of serial killers. 

Culture Audience: “The Price We Pay” will appeal primarily to people who like mindless slasher films with no originality.

Stephen Dorff and Gigi Zumbado in “The Price We Pay” (Photo courtesy of Lionsgate)

“The Price We Pay” is yet another tedious and moronic slasher flick that’s a very bad imitation of 1974’s “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.” If you’re going to copy a horror classic, at least make it compelling. “The Price We Pay” fails miserably on every level.

Directed by Ryûhei Kitamura and written by Christopher Jolley, “The Price We Pay” has so many unimaginative clichés and badly staged action sequences, the cast members could have been replaced by robots, and it still would’ve looked like the same awful mess. Actually, robots would probably have done a better job than most of the human actors who give soulless and stiff performances in “The Price We Pay.” Everything becomes so predictable and repetitive, it drains the movie of any suspense that it might have intended.

“The Price We Pay” takes place in an unnamed city in New Mexico. (The movie was actually filmed in Las Cruces, New Mexico.) The opening scene shows a sex worker in her 20s named Carly (played by Sabina Mach) being thrown out of a truck by a recent customer named John (played by Jesse Kinser), who leaves her stranded at a remote gas station before he drives away. Carly goes inside a stall of the gas station’s restroom, where viewers see that she has stolen John’s wallet.

Suddenly, a man wearing heavy work boots walks up to the stall and creepily stands in front of the closed stall door where Carly is, but he says nothing. A terrified Carly can only see this man’s feet, and she doesn’t want to open the door. As a distraction, she slides the wallet underneath the stall and across the floor, thinking that this weird stranger will take the wallet and leave. The man eventually walks away.

And it’s at this point you know that just because he walked away doesn’t mean he left. Carly hesitantly opens the stall door. And the next thing she knows, she is wounded by a dart and then dragged outside. Viewers can easily guess what happens to Carly.

Meanwhile, in another part of town, a woman in her 20s named Grace (played by Gigi Zumbado) is in the back room of a pawn shop, where she is negotiating a debt that she owes to the pawn shop’s sleazy-looking owner/manager Mr. Fuller (played by Heath Hensley), because she’s four weeks overdue on an unspecified payment. Grace offers to sell more items at the pawn shop to cover part of the debt. Their negotiations are interrupted when Grace and Mr. Fuller notice on the security cameras that there’s an armed robbery in progress in the front part of the pawn shop.

Mr. Fuller takes a gun and goes to the front to defend his shop. He is shot dead, but not before shooting one of the robbers in the robber’s right leg. A pawn shop worker (played by Nick Check) is part of the shootout, but he is easily outnumbered by the three robbers, so he is shot to death too. Grace hides in the back room, where she tries to find a way to escape.

The ringleader of this criminal trio is named Cody (played by Stephen Dorff), who sees Grace in the back room and captures her. Cody and his two cronies—Alex (played by Emile Hirsch) and Alex’s younger brother Shane (played by Tanner Zagarino)—then kidnap Grace and force her to let them take her car in their getaway. Shane is the robber with the injured leg. Even though it’s later revealed that Alex hired Cody (a former military guy) for this robbery, Cody is the one who acts like he’s in charge the entire time.

These dimwitted criminals are in a panic and don’t have a plan. They don’t want to go a hospital, because Shane’s gunshot wound will be reported to the police. As so, the thieves and Grace drive around aimlessly in a backwoods area until the car runs out of gas and then malfunctions and is unable to operate. It’s late at night, and there’s no chance that any mechanic shops in the area will be open.

They walk around until they find what they think might be a safe place to hide out: an isolated farm. Someone is at the farm when they arrive: a harmless-looking teenager named Danny (played by Tyler Sanders), who says he lives there with his grandfather, who is not home a the moment, but the grandfather will be home soon. Cody has noticed that there’s an empty barn on the property. Before approaching Danny to ask to temporarily stay in the barn, Cody tells Grace to go along with whatever Cody does.

Cody and Grace pretend that they are married and are looking for a place to stay for a few hours because their car unexpectedly broke down. Cody turns on the charm, begs Danny to let them stay in the barn, and promises that they will be gone in the morning. Danny reluctantly agrees. What Cody doesn’t tell Danny is that they have a guy with them with a bullet wound.

Because the trailer for “The Price We Pay” already reveals that this farm is inhabited by a family of serial killers who capture and torture these four visitors, it should come as no surprise when it happens. Danny’s grandfather, whose only name in the movie is The Doctor (played by Vernon Wells), acts like a surgeon from hell. And he likes to use a dart to incapacitate his victims before killing them.

There’s another member of the family who’s also a murderous accomplice: The Doctor’s daughter Jodi (played by Erika Ervin), a towering and mute slaughterer, who has disheveled hair and wears a tattered mask. The Jodi character is basically a ripoff of “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre” villain Leatherface, but not nearly as terrifying.

Dorff is the only member of the cast who looks like he’s making some effort to have a personality for his character. Very little is revealed about any of the hollow characters in this movie. Any few personal details about the characters that are revealed have no real bearing on the overall story. The killers’ motives are murky at best. “The Price We Pay” is not only the movie’s title but it can also describe the unfortunate experience of anyone who wastes time watching this repulsive dreck.

Lionsgate released “The Price We Pay” on digital and VOD on January 10, 2023, and in select U.S. cinemas on January 13, 2023.

Review: ‘The Doorman’ (2020), starring Ruby Rose and Jean Reno

October 15, 2020

by Carla Hay

Ruby Rose in “The Doorman” (Photo courtesy of Lionsgate)

“The Doorman” (2020)

Directed by Ryuhei Kitamura

Culture Representation: Taking place primarily in New York City, the action flick “The Doorman” features a predominantly white cast of characters (with a few Asians) representing the middle-class and criminal underground.

Culture Clash: A former Marine takes a job as a doorman at an upscale apartment building and finds herself battling with art thieves who take her and some of her family members hostage.

Culture Audience: “The Doorman” will appeal primarily to people who don’t mind watching formulaic and forgettable action movies.

Jean Reno in “The Doorman” (Photo courtesy of Lionsgate)

“The Doorman” is one of those “taken hostage and trapped in a building” movies that’s nothing more than a predictable and uncreative variation of the classic 1988 Bruce Willis film “Die Hard.” Directed by Ryuhei Kitamura, “The Doorman” makes almost no attempt to do anything new with the formula that’s been endlessly copied since “Die Hard” became an influential blockbuster. The only fairly unusual aspect of the film is that the action hero in this movie is a woman. And the movie is a reminder that being a front-lobby attendant is such a male-dominated job that it’s still referred to as being a doorman.

Three people are credited with writing “The Doorman” screenplay: Lior Chefetz, Joe Swanson and Devon Rose. And apparently none of them could think of a plausible reason for why a cell phone couldn’t be used to get help in this emergency situation when the hero of the story temporarily breaks free from the hostages but is still in the apartment building where the home invasion takes place. Viewers are expected to accept the flimsy explanation that cell-phone service isn’t working in that particular building because the building is undergoing renovations.

Before the hostage situation happens, the movie gives a brief introduction to the protagonist of “The Doorman” and the life she had before she began working in the upscale New York City apartment building that’s taken hostage. Her name is Ali Gorsky (played by Ruby Rose), a serious-minded and stoic type who was a sergeant in the Marines. She was part of an elite U.S. military team stationed in an unnamed country. One of her duties was being a bodyguard for an unnamed female U.S. ambassador (played by Andreea Vasile) and the ambassador’s daughter Nira (played by Andreea Androne), who’s about 7 or 8 years old.

While traveling to a speaking engagement, the ambassador is in a convoy of cars in front of and behind her car as protection as they drive through a secluded wooded area. Ali and Nira are along for the ride too. Suddenly, numerous gunmen emerge from the woods and ambush the fleet of cars. The assassins have war weapons, including a rocket launcher, while the military defenders, who just have regular guns, are quickly killed off, one by one.

All of the assassins’ victims die except for Ali, who tries in vain to save the ambassador and her daughter, who become easy targets in the back seat of a car when a rocket launcher is aimed right at them. The explosion propels Ali into the woods in some very cheesy and not-very-believable visual effects, which morph into Ali in New York City waking up from a nightmare where she remembered what happened on that terrible day.

Needless to say, by the time Ali is seen in New York City, she has already left the military in disgrace and she needs another job. She meets with her uncle Pat (played by Philip Whitchurch) at a local bar, where she’s reluctant to talk about her traumatic experience. Pat works as a contractor for building repairs and renovations, and he tells Ali about a job opening for a doorman in the high-rise apartment building where he’s doing renovations. She reluctantly agrees to interview for the job.

The building is called The Carrington, and it’s in an upscale area on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. It’s the type of building that was built before World War II and used to be a hotel. Most of the residents have temporarily moved out because of the renovations. However, some of the residents who are still living there have reasons for why they’ve been allowed to stay in the building.

This poorly written movie doesn’t really show Ali interviewing for the job, which she gets shortly before Easter. She just shows up and meets someone named Borz Blasevic (played by Aksel Hennie), who presents himself as the chief doorman/superintendent, and he immediately tells her to get dressed in the work uniform in the unisex locker room. Borz knows that Ali was referred to by Pat, but Pat tells Ali that he doesn’t want Borz to know that Ali is related to Pat.

And it just so happens that Ali has other relatives in the building, and they are among the few residents who are still living there during the renovations: Her brother-in-law Jon Stanton (played by Rupert Evans), a professor who’s originally from England; Jon’s son Max (played by Julian Feder), who’s about 15 or 16 years old; and Jon’s daughter Lily (played by Kila Lord Cassidy), who’s about 11 or 12 years old.

Jon is a widower who used to be married to Ali’s late sister, whose cause of death is not mentioned in the movie. It’s also not mentioned how long Ali’s sister has been dead, but it’s implied that it’s been less than two years. Jon is a written as a generic father with not much of a personality. Max, who is often sullen, has antisocial tendencies because he apparently spends a lot of time alone smoking marijuana and playing video games. Lily is a typical “adorable and precocious” kid that movies like this tend to have whenever children are taken hostage.

Jon and his children have been allowed to remain in the building because they aren’t going to stay for much longer: After Easter vacation, they plan to move back to England, where Jon works. After her sister’s death, Ali has been avoiding being around Jon and the kids because of a secret that is very easy to predict from the moment that Jon and Ali first see each other when he finds out that she’s now working in the building.

On her first day on the job, Ali meets two of the other remaining residents in the building: an elderly couple named Bernard Hersh (played by Petre Moraru) and his wife (played by (Delianne Forget), who doesn’t have a first name in the movie. Bernard had a stroke seven years before, he almost never talks, and he’s wheelchair-bound. His wife, who is his caretaker, explains to Ali that building management allowed them to continue living at The Carrington during renovations because moving to another building would upset Bernard too much.

It isn’t long before danger comes to The Carrington, when a French thief named Victor Dubois (played by Jean Reno) and his small gang of henchmen arrive for a home invasion in the Hershes’ apartment. Of course, these thugs had some help from a building insider, and it’s very easy to figure out who that person is in this relatively small cast of characters. This “inside job” criminal barricades the front door from the inside with chains and a padlock, so the hostages can’t escape. (The movie never shows if any back doors or side doors are also barricaded.)

Victor is there to steal some valuable art paintings that are in the building, and Bernard knows where they are. But things go awry because Victor doesn’t know until he gets there that Bernard is nearly mute and can’t really tell the information that Victor wants. This leads to a torture scene and Victor finding out that the Hershes used to live in the apartment where the Stantons currently live.

And guess who’s taken hostage next while they’re having Easter dinner? Ali is off-duty at the Stantons’ apartment, having what she thought would be just an awkward family reunion dinner at Easter. And because she’s off-duty, she happens to be wearing high heels, which are supposed to make her look like a “feminine badass” when she has the inevitable fights with the home invaders.

The rest of “The Doorman” is about Ali trying to save her relatives through a series of often-preposterous scenarios. The Carrington happens to be a building with hidden rooms and hidden dumbwaiter shafts. And there’s an underground tunnel that was supposed to be a subway tunnel but construction on the tunnel was halted decades ago, and the tunnel was sealed up behind a wall.

As the main character in this stereotypical action flick, Rose doesn’t have much to do except act tough and go through the choreographed motions for the fight sequences. Ali shows some glimmers of being humanly vulnerable in moments with Jon and the children. But for the most part, Ali has a very wooden personality, and Rose doesn’t have much acting range to bring more charisma to this formulaic character.

French actor Reno has been playing villains in B-movies for quite some time, so there’s nothing new or exciting that he does in “The Doorman.” He usually portrays the “brains” of a criminal operation who gets other people to do most of the dirty work. In “The Doorman,” the Victor character is no different, except this mastermind criminal makes a lot of stupid and arrogant decisions that just drag the movie out longer, in order to create a false sense of suspense.

“The Doorman” is the type of bad movie that isn’t so bad that it’s laughable. It’s the type of bad movie that will induce boredom because it’s so tiresome in how unimaginative it is. The fight scenes are unremarkable, and the acting is mediocre at best. The characters you expect to get killed are the ones who get killed. The characters you expect to survive are the ones who survive. There are video games that are better than this cliché-ridden, soulless movie.

Lionsgate released “The Doorman” on digital and VOD on October 9, 2020, and on Blu-ray and DVD on October 13, 2020.

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