Neither really a thriller, or mystery, nor clever enough in its plot, twists, or script El Cortez is a pleasant enough diversion but lacks any real distinction.
The plot is nothing you haven't seen before, the characters are OK, but really below par. The fault may lie with Lou Diamond Philips. He is not a character actor in the mould of Edward Norton and the way he plays Manny is too off-balance for the material. The fact that he plays the ex-com hotel desk clerk like Edward Norton would have just doesn't ring true somehow.
The rest of the cast are good, especially James McDaniel as the cop, but the material is somehow flat. The real fault lies in the way it is shot: too light, and bright. I would have liked the lighting and shooting to have been less TV movie mode and more film noir: more shadows, and less claustrophobic. I felt Stephen Purvis wanted it to be a small tale, which is right, but would have liked to have built more atmosphere. A soundtrack would have helped enormously.
There is nothing spectacularly wrong with El Cortez it just is what it is: a small theatrical thriller that would work well as a stage piece and fails to translate its convictions and menace to film.
Overall, worth watching if you like the genre, but don't expect too much.
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