Wise are the filmmakers who look to Alfred Hitchcock, “the master of suspense,” for inspiration, twists and story structure in creating their screen thriller. But foolish are they who bollix things as thoroughly as the hapless folks who made “The Host.”
It’s “Psycho,” very roughly speaking, a “Psycho” had Hitchcock been into torture porn.
“The Host” hooks you in just long enough to make you wonder, “What the Hell is going on here?” But no sooner have you thought, “Ah, I get it,” when it proceeds to let you down in several annoying ways.
First off, get it out of your head that the great Derek Jacobi has anything to do with the story. He’s a whisky-swilling shrink in an opening and closing scene, “explaining,” setting up a framing device for the tale that follows. Jeroen Crabbé? Even less to do with it.
Explicit sex introduces our hero, young Robert (Mike Beckingham). He’s a bank clerk with little ambition to get ahead in the company, and lacking the common sense to be carrying on hotel assignations with a higher-up, who also happens to be his boss’s American-born wife (Margot Stilley).
She won’t be leaving her husband, but she lets him down with “I think you could be brilliant, if you put your mind to it,” followed by the kicker — “If your situation was different…”
He’s not rich enough to keep the likes of her. Funny that they’d make this mercenary woman American.
Robert later endures a “one bad decision after another” chewing out from his brother (Dougie Poynter) on the walk home. If only Dougie knew that Robert was toting a backpack full of a client’s safe deposit box cash.
He’s only borrowing it, to make a big score at the Chinese casino down the street. What this dope (“You could be brilliant,” right.) doesn’t see it all the side-eyes assorted Chinese gamblers, card dealers and mobsters give each other. He’s getting taken. But that’s how he makes “a friend.”
Lao Hoi Ho (Togo Igawa) will cover the kid’s losses IF he takes this briefcase to Amsterdam for a swap. No, the kid doesn’t have a choice. He is dying of curiosity to see what’s in the case.
But it turns out the chatty dude in the seat next to him (Nigel Barber) ISN’T with the Air Marshals service (Who would admit that to a fellow passenger?), but is with the DEA. And has he got a stay-out-of-prison deal for Robert.
Robert has just arrived in Amsterdam and he’s already in the hole to the Chinese Triads and the DEA. Topping it all, his hotel reservation is botched. He’s stuck staying in this AirBnB set-up, a swank townhouse where the sultry Vera (Maryam Hassouni, mysterious and beguiling) presides.
And Vera, too, has a lot of questions and unknown motives. This big house, with a wine cellar and ancient antiques, is quite the bargain. Or so it seems.
I like the way the film flirts with racism in its depiction of the “shifty” Chinese diaspora — all in league to trap and destroy the trusting Englishman. But the Dutch are no treat, either.
What follows is ineptly-plotted, hilariously illogical and often badly-acted. “The Host” grabs a couple of the dumber “explain it” elements from Hitchcock, as well as story structure.
The first half of the story is far more intriguing than the second, and “The Host” goes almost wholly wrong from that magic moment AFTER we wonder, “Just what the Hell is going on here?”
MPAA Rating: R for some bloody violence, sexuality and language
Credits: Directed by Andy Newberry, script by Finola Geraghty, Brendan Bishop and Laurence Lamers. A Vertical Entertainment release.
Running time: 1:43