Hospitality is the sort of film that looks like a thriller, feels like a thriller and essentially plays out like a thriller. The only thing it forgets to do is provide any actual thrills. This low-budget effort, scripted and directed by the filmmaking team of Nick Chakwin and David Guglielmo, features a decent cast in the form of HBO television veterans Emmanuelle Chriqui (Entourage), Sam Trammell (True Blood), Connor McVicker (Vice Principals) and Jim Beaver (Deadwood), but those names aren’t enough to compensate for the underwhelming nature of this noirish effort that has the impact of a fizzed firecracker.
Chriqui plays Donna, the proverbial prostitute with a heart of gold. Well, former prostitute, to be exact, since she gave up the trade years ago after the birth of her now-teenage son Jimmy (McVicker). She now runs a bed-and-breakfast, although business is understandably sparse since it seems to be located in the absolute middle of nowhere.
Money is not Donna’s only problem. Jimmy, who dotes on a pet rabbit named Spider-Man, suffers cognitive issues due to a complicated birth. And she’s regularly pressured for both money and sex by the crooked local sheriff (JR Bourne), who stops by whenever he feels the need for either.
The slow-moving plot gathers only slightly more steam with the arrival of Cam (Trammell), a former client who shows up in desperate need of Donna’s services after having served a 20-year prison sentence. When Donna advises him that she’s retired, he takes the news good-naturedly and rents a room anyway. Donna warms up to Cam after he treats her son kindly, and the two wind up in bed together. But it soon turns out that his real motivation for returning is the suitcase filled with money and a gun that he hid in her bedroom all those years ago.
The arrival of a mysterious stranger (Beaver) who tells the others that he goes by the name “Boss” causes the plot to further thicken. We know this because one of the other characters declares, “The plot thickens.” The screenplay throws in more plot twists than necessary, including a ham-fisted revelation concerning the possible paternity of Donna’s son.
The storyline is certainly adequate enough and could probably have inspired a juicy 1940s melodrama featuring star players from Warner Bros.’ stock company. But it generally falls flat here due to the lackluster execution. The derivative screenplay lacking wit and the filmmaking devoid of arresting style, Hospitality never gathers narrative momentum despite its frequent plot developments. As a result, the pic feels much longer than its brief 80-minute running time.
Chriqui does very well in a role that gives her more to do than usual, although she’s less convincing the tougher the character gets. Trammell, who seems to specialize in playing characters in over their heads, does respectable work, while Beaver makes a powerful impression despite his brief screen time.
But their efforts are not enough to make Hospitality anything more than serviceable. And in this era in which viewers are deluged by thriller choices on both the big and small screen, serviceable doesn’t cut it anymore.
Production company-distributor: Kandoo Films
Cast: Emmanuelle Chriqui, Sam Trammell, Conor McVicker, Jim Beaver, JR Bourne
Directors-screenwriters: Nick Chakwin, David Guglielmo
Producer: Howard Barish
Director of photography: Eli Arenson
Production designer: Christina Eunji Kim
Editor: Alex Ivany
Composer: Ali Heinwein
Costume designer: Jessica Basista
Casting: David Guglielmo