Duplex (2003)

(On TV, July 2015)  There’s a particular type of domestic bourgeois horror at the heart of Duplex, which is to say: what happens when a tenant not only refuses to leave, but makes your life miserable?  Ben Stiller, in his classic manic mode, and an unremarkable Drew Barrymore star in this black comedy whose main claim to fame remains that it’s directed by Danny DeVito.  Duplex is, for the most part, a reasonably entertaining accumulation of mayhem, as a sweet old lady proves to be the bane of our protagonist landlords.  It escalates quite a bit, in ways that don’t feel entirely natural.  The point of the film being embarrassment and violent intentions, it’s not the kind of comedy fit to be appreciated whole-heartedly.  The deliberately frustrating ending plays along that vein, making this a film for specific audiences.  At least it works on a basic level: most of the film is reasonably entertaining, moves from one plot point to another and packages everything in a neat bow (although, once again, you have to wonder about the sanity of antagonists trying those dangerous long-cons.)  Neither particularly good nor bad (albeit maybe irritating), Duplex seems to be the kind of film you see once, shrug off and then make no particular effort to see again.

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