The opening scene of Nick Richey’s 1-800-Hot-Nite sees the three leads calling the titular 800 number with a stolen credit card. The teenage boys are so enthused to hear the lady on the other end talk dirty that they lose their cool. Tommy (Dallas Young), O’Neil (Gerrison Machado), and his cousin Steve (Mylen Bradford) then leave the phone booth and continue with new adventures for the night.
However, the writer/director brilliantly subverts expectations moments later. See, this isn’t some raucous After Hours-esque adventure in the vein of Good Boys or Superbad. The turn toward the dramatic is expertly handled, setting viewers up to always expect the unexpected.
His friends convince Tommy to take some beer from his house, but his dad catches him. Then, the police bust through the door, executing a drug raid, arresting Tommy’s dad. The boy flees the scene with his friends, leaving his much younger half-brother behind. Now, the trio must figure out where Tommy will stay for the night while facing their own familial issues that they tried to keep secret.
Without spoiling 1-800-Hot-Nite, know that Tommy, O’Neil, and Steve’s adventure sees them run from the cops, tangle with some thieves a few grades above them, and meet up with their crushes. Throughout it all, Tommy keeps calling the 800 number as he feels the woman (producer Ali Richey) is the only adult he can confide in.
“…the trio must figure out where Tommy will stay for the night…”
While the ending feels a bit rushed, the drama works thanks to the performances of its young cast. Young is a revelation as the ostensible lead, projecting confidence and confusion/fear whenever it’s called for, often in the same scene. His chemistry with his onscreen buddies is outstanding, and they feel like true best friends through thick and thin. Such chemistry only works if Machado and Bradford are also good. Happily, they too impressively deliver the goods and help maintain the all-important balance of the drama, comedy, and coming-of-age threads. Ali Richey is stunning as the phone sex operator with a conscience. Her empathy can be felt just through her voice, adding pathos to the proceedings.
Of course, the cast is given a tremendous boost by Richey’s script. 1-800-Hot-Nite knows that even best friends don’t share everything, and resentments can seemingly come out of nowhere. While the occasional line is there for more expository reasons than realism, that is hardly a flaw. The story beats always feel organic to what the boys are trying to accomplish, while people’s reactions are also always genuine.
The filmmaker also brings it on the visual front. For a rather heartrending drama, the movie looks great. The central trio cast long shadows as they confidently walk down the poorly lit street. But, as their lives become more complicated and family problems take precedent, the friends’ big view of themselves comes back down to reality. This is represented by how often the camera has to catch up with them as if they are trying to escape their lives, i.e., the film.
1-800-Hot-Nite is surprisingly heartfelt and realistic. While it is not the comedic odyssey the opening suggests, don’t let that deter you from checking it out. Thanks to the amazing cast and Richey’s clear, distinct vision, it works on many levels.
To learn more, check out 1-800-Hot-Nite‘s official site.
"…surprisingly heartfelt and realistic."