REVIEW: Night Janitor
– By Allan Lear
“Hey Mike. Hey Mike. Mike. Hey Mike. Mike. Mike. Hey Mike. Hey Mike. Mike. Mike? Mike. Mike. Mike. Mike. Mike. Mike. Hey Mike. Mike. Mike. Mike. Mike. Hey Mike!”
“Sorry, Sean, I was miles away. What’s up?”
“Mike, I’m bored.”
“Why don’t you get yourself a nice book from the living room?”
“Books are boring!”
“Well what do you want me to do?”
“Can we make another of our low-budget movies? Like DickRipper, the one that guy from that movie website liked?”
“Gee, I dunno, Sean. What would we make a film about?”
“I had this really cool idea, Mike! What if a bunch of robbers break into a building? And it’s at night, and the only guy there is the night janitor? But it turns out the night janitor really has superpowers, like he’s super strong, and he fights all the bad guys and saves the day?”
“Sean…isn’t that Toxic Avenger?”
“You never like anything I come up with!”
“Now, Sean, that isn’t true. I like it. I like it fine. I just think we should cool off on the superpowers angle.”
“Aw man. OK then.”
“Great, Sean. Why don’t you go set up the camera and I’ll be along in a little while.”
“OK. OK then Mike! I’ll go set up. See you in a sec!”
“Sure thing, Mike.”
“I swear to God, I don’t know how you put up with that guy.”
“What do you want me to do, Cathy, break his heart?”
Thus ran the creative decision-making process behind Night Janitor. Possibly. This is a ten-minute short film written by Michael Chau, from a story idea by director Sean George. The story in question is a cross between Dirty Harry and Hong Kong Phooey (Dirty Phooey?) and it stars John Copeland as the titular caretaker who is thrust into dire peril by the sudden arrival of a band of Keystone Kriminals calling themselves the Blade Brothers. They are under the mentorship of a grand villain who goes by the moniker Big Bob. He’s not very big. I cannot speculate on whether or not he is very bob.
Various ridiculous conflicts ensue in which the night janitor uses all the tools of his trade to slaughter the incoming Blade Brothers. Plungers, broom handles, little plastic spray bottles…all are turned to martial use as the custodian defends his workplace, his livelihood and his honour. And his clean floors.
Obviously this is all intended as comedy, and it works sometimes. The worst impediment to comic impact is the cast, all of the baddies in which seem to think that comedy is best served by gurning, silly voices and fannying around. It has been said before, time and again, that the more ridiculous a situation is, the straighter it needs to be played, and Night Janitor is an excellent example of what happens when that simple prescription is ignored. Stop telling me when to laugh, damn it, I’ll laugh when I’m good and ready.
The honourable exception in terms of unforced errors by the cast is our star, Copeland. The most senior of the ensemble – in both senses of the word ‘senior’ – he exhibits the great good sense to play his part absolutely without parody, delivering a good Clint Eastwood-style turn as the emotionless, hard-as-nails unexpected badass who despatches his opponents with cleaning utensils and diluted bleaches.
Special effects are rendered on an obvious budget and consequently range from effectively makeshift to crap. Some of the death scenes are rendered with loving care, some of them take the form of a couple of joke-shop eyeballs being dropped on the floor while the camera lingeringly observes the fact that they are far, far too small to have come from human eye-sockets.
But let us not linger on the budgetary limitations, for that is an unfair way of judging a film’s success. The film’s biggest problem is the woeful “comedy” acting, which is a flaw that it doesn’t cost a fortune to overcome; you can sort that out with some careful casting or some strong direction. Since the director is the same person who decided to film the story of Dirty Phooey, I’m prepared to have a guess at where exactly the weak link in the process was.
Night Janitor is quick to watch and might well keep you entertained for ten minutes. But as long as it kept Sean George amused for a few days and stopped him playing with scissors, then it’s probably done all it was ever intended to do.