This is an abridged version of a review that ran when Niagara Motel played at the New Montreal FilmFest in September.
There's a principle in comedy that a recurring bit must be done three times to be funny - one for the set-up, two to establish familiarity, three for the big payoff.
Niagara Motel, a dark comedy that's more dark than comedy, is veteran character actor Kevin Pollak's second turn as a low-life hustler in a Gary Yates movie - and maybe the principle is working, because his seldom-disputed talents leave us wanting more of the same.
Pollak's character, Michael, is a restaurant regular in the seedy motel of the title. He's also a quick-buck artist trying to get waitress Loretta (Caroline Dhavernas) to make adult videos.
That is one of three hard-luck tales unfolding within the motel. Apart from a couple of other none-too-desirable suitors making demands on Loretta, we have a recovering drug addict (Anna Friel) and her ex-con husband (Kris Holden-Ried), and a bickering middle-class couple (Wendy Crewson and Peter Keleghan), clinging to a marriage on life support. Stumbling through their lives is Phillie (Craig Ferguson), the drunken janitor, whose wife drowned on their honeymoon.
The Muse Entertainment production took half of George F. Walker's six Suburban Motel plays and boiled them down to 90 minutes of cinema.
If the characters were a bit more engaging and a shade less irritating, Niagara Motel would be firing on all cylinders. Problem is, the film mostly fails to find an element in its people that would make us care enough to hang any hopes on them. Dhavernas and Holden-Ried might come closest, but in the end, you're not hoping to see any of these no-hope characters in a sequel any time soon.