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The Tenants (R)

Release Date: February 3rd, 2006 (AMC Empire 25)
Video Release Date: March 7th, 2006
The Cast: Dylan McDermott, Snoop Dogg, Rose Byrne, Niki J. Crawford, Aldis Hodge, Seymour Cassel.
Directed by Danny Green.

BASIC PREMISE: Harry (McDermott) and Willie (Dogg), two struggling writers living in the same abandoned apartment building, get to know one another while Harry falls in love with Willie’s girlfriend, Irene (Byrne).

ENTERTAINMENT VALUE: Based on the novel by Bernard Malamud, The Tenants has only three essential characters and a simple plot, yet it somehow becomes complex and surprising. Dylan McDermott, barely recognizable behind a thick beard, gives a convincing performance as a writer who tries to finish his second novel in his quiet, abandoned apartment. A few doors down from him, he meets Willie who is at his typewriter trying to finish his first book. This is Snoop Dogg’s first juicy role in his entire career and he makes the character very true-to-life. They instantly become friends, but the landlord, played by the scene-stealing Seymour Cassel, doesn’t want Willie there because he’s a trespasser—and also because he’s black. As Harry continues to befriend Willie, his troubles only start. He meets Willie’s white girlfriend Irene and starts to see her behind Willie’s back. In the twisted third act, McDermott has a powerful scene where he inevitably breaks down physically and mentally. The beautifully-written script brings all three characters to life, especially when Harry and Willie interact with one another. This character-driven film works because you actually care about its complex, interesting characters. The gritty settings add an appropriate claustrophobic atmosphere. There’s no tangible “bad guy” or “good guy”, which is precisely what makes this such a refreshing and surprising film.

SPIRITUAL VALUE: The Tenants tackles the issue of racism by showing how destructive it can be even with the best intentions. Harry wants to be friends with Willie, butt their relationship is doomed from the very start because they only pretend to see eye-to-eye. It’s easy to feel bad for Willie, but, eventually, Harry ends up in a similar self-destructive situation. Both clearly need to seek mental help. The harrowing final scene will send a chill down your spine.


IN A NUTSHELL: Dylan McDermott is superb! Snoop Dogg gives the best performance of his career! A gritty, highly engrossing drama!

RECOMMENDED WAY TO WATCH: Movie Theater (1st Run)

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