“The Perfect Host” is one of those films that is at its best when nothing is happening. Two lives collide: our protagonist, a down-on-his-luck ex-con looking for one more score, and a mild, unassuming fellow who is just trying to have a pleasant dinner party.
The thrill of “The Perfect Host” is that not all is at it seems and the power structures we think are calling the shots are flipped more times than a flapjack. Our criminal isn’t necessarily as tough as he talks, and our mild host is far more terrifying than he at first appears.
If the film stopped there, meshing one man’s lower-class struggle with the mental decay of the upper-class, “The Perfect Host” would be a brilliant if short film. But director Nick Tomnay wants to keep peeling back layers, so he keeps inventing increasingly unlikely surprises about each of character. By the time the police get involved, “The Perfect Host” starts overstaying its welcome.
Still, David Hyde Pierce as Warwick Wilson is at his best here playing a character that’s essentially Myles with a wicked edge. He effortlessly switches between simpering and sadistic without skipping a beat. His counter is less compelling, if only because his role consists of swearing, shouting, and stomping around in frustration.
John Taylor’s (Clayne Crawford) flashbacks introduce a third character who complicates the film in ways that aren’t always positive. Simone’s (Meghan Perry) machinations are only slightly less believable than our host, which starts to really test the audience’s patience. The plot also tries hard to make both main characters a little more likable with mixed results.
Barring some plot hole questions (what happened to Taylor’s foot? How does Wilson do any work without sleeping?), “The Perfect Host” is a compelling psychological thriller of one-upmanship. Although it may not be quite perfect, it’s an enjoyable way to spend an evening.
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