Flawed but fun: “The Perfect Host” is worth watching for the crazy alone.

He'll charm your pants off - and then eat them.

No more roofie red for me, my head is spinning.

Once the sun goes down and the alcohol comes out, people make strange decisions.  One of the decisions we made this past weekend involved going from watching Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog on Netflix to The Perfect Host, the crime noir/dark comedy independent film starring a gleefully malevolent David Hyde Pierce in what can only be defined as a tour de force performance.

Clayne Crawford, a/k/a John the Shitty Bank Robber

Kind of a “poor man’s Ray Liotta” thing going on here.

The film revolves around the character of John Taylor, an injured criminal played by Jericho and 24 alum Clayne Crawford, who tries to con his way into the home of David Hyde Pierce’s Warwick Wilson in order to lay low after fleeing from a  barely successful bank robbery.  Finding a postcard addressed to Warwick in his mailbox from a woman named Julia, John bluffs his way inside, claiming to be a friend and asking for a moment to collect his thoughts after getting mugged.  The affable Warwick offers John some solace, plying him with wine and offering him a seat at his table for the dinner party he’s throwing that evening.

Close enough.

Warwick’s dinner guests.

At first nothing more than an easy mark to John, Warwick seems a credulous nebbish but hides a secret that’s quickly revealed to be that Warwick is absolutely batshit insane.  The man is a functional schizophrenic who refuses to take his full dose of anti-psychotics, regularly slipping into a fantasy world populated by imaginary dinner party guests – and after spiking John’s wine, the tables are turned on the unfortunate criminal, who wakes up tied to a dining room chair while John literally talks to himself.

Shut up, Frasier, or I swear to God I'll cut your head off and sew it to Eddie's body.

Shortly before he bit the dog.

There’s a lot to like about this film, with David Hyde Pierce’s performance on the top of that list.  The man inhabits that role in a way that leaves you with chills, especially when taking into account that this is the same actor who played Niles Crane on Frasier for 11 years.  It’s a welcome incongruity to see such a nuanced performance, containing not only aggression and violence but guile and cunning; coming from someone you’ve been accustomed to seeing as mild-mannered Niles, it’s all the more noteworthy and a brilliant performance.

Sadly, the rest of the film doesn’t reach the same heights of inspiration that David Hyde Pierce’s performance does.  The crime noir subplot concerning Warwick’s “guest,” John, and how his bank robbery went bad, is not nearly as interesting as whatever insane malevolence Warwick is up to.  The subplot does merge with the central narrative later on, and while it’s one of the better moments in the film when it’s revealed how the pieces fall into place, the last third of the film begins to strain your suspension of disbelief as Warwick’s instability takes a backseat to what could have otherwise been the plot of a particularly uninspired episode of Leverage.

However, for all its uneven pacing and imbalanced plot details, The Perfect Host is still worth seeing, even if it’s just to watch David Hyde Pierce tear up the scenery as a crazy motherfucker.  If you’re looking for a bravura performance from an incredibly talented actor – and you’re willing to sit through a few boring bits at the beginning – you’ll definitely get a kick out of it if you can catch it on Netflix or at Redbox.

The Perfect Host gets three out of five Psycho Warwick Heads!


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