It would probably be for the best if the film was just forgotten. Especially for Sheridan, who’s painfully miscast in the title role. This must have seemed like a good opportunity for him, too—a chance do some real acting as Bart Bromley, a hotel clerk with Asperger Syndrome who witnesses a murder on the overnight shift. Unfortunately, Sheridan just isn’t up to the task, turning in a performance that somehow reeks of both too much and too little effort. It’s not entirely his fault: At one point, a character checks the Wikipedia entry for Asperger’s, which pretty much reflects this film’s understanding of the disorder. People with Aspberger’s tend to have trouble with eye contact, so Sheridan pointedly, exaggeratedly avoids eye contact in dialogue scenes. Aspberger’s often manifests in unusual or rhythmic speech patterns, so Sheridan repeats a lengthy, Rain Man-esque rote response every time someone asks how he’s doing. If he’s attempting to portray a person with a stiff and unconvincing presence, he succeeded. But it’s hard to tell if that’s an intentional choice or if the performance itself is just stiff and unconvincing. In such cases, the simpler (and less flattering) explanation is probably the right one.
Bart is a peeping Tom who installs spy cameras in the rooms at the hotel where he works, a creepy thing to do that the film treats as a harmless manifestation of his condition. Sure, he’s obsessively watching female guests in various states of undress without their knowledge or consent, but he’s not a pervert or anything. He’s doing it to learn social skills! You could describe The Night Clerk, with its shallow noir plot, as a Brian De Palma movie without any of the style, but that’s probably too generous. It isn’t much of a mystery, either.
Sheridan spends much of the film stalking de Armas, who play an enigmatic hotel guest whose promiscuity, The Night Clerk reckons, can only be redeemed by the pure love of the man who secretly watches her 24/7. All the while, Bart is enabled by his doting mom, Ethel (Hunt), and pursued by homicide detective Johnny Espada (Leguizamo), who correctly intuits that Bart knows something about the murder in the first act but incorrectly assumes he did it. Both Hunt and Leguizamo go through the motions in uninteresting roles, generously making space for what is supposed to be a showcase for Sheridan. But it’s de Armas who catches the eye, giving real emotion and soul to a role that’s laden with misogynist femme fatale stereotypes.