“Snoop Dogg” and “aspiring novelist” — the words don’t exactly mesh in our collective consciousness. But Danny Green shoots for just that combination in his directorial debut. Set in 1972 Brooklyn, The Tenants opens with Dylan McDermott’s thickly bearded, bespectacled Harry Lesser writing his third book — the first is a classic, the second, not so good — in a decrepit tenement, of which he is the last tenant. His only disturbance is his irritating landlord who wants to raze the building and sell to developers. One morning, Lesser hears the click of a typewriter down the hall: it’s Snoop’s hot-tempered Willie Spearmint squatting in an empty apartment, furiously clicking away at a novel. The two form an explosive bond — Spearmint becomes Lesser’s friend, protégé, and onus — that ultimately destroys them.
Based on a Bernard Malamud novel, The Tenants is, for the first 45 minutes, a grey, moody study of the writer’s life. But after the introduction of Spearmint’s “honky girlfriend,” Irene, the mood turns to mud. Scenes rush by without impetus: Lesser is bewitched by Irene, for reasons no more apparent than that he hasn’t been laid by a cutie hipster white chick in fucking forever. His more sizzling romp with a sexually adventurous black woman is forgotten before we even get a chance to digest it, and Irene, a fabulously boring character, quits acting before it’s apparent to us that she’s a struggling actress.
Left behind in this mess is Snoop’s respectable, if amateurish, performance. He shows he can put his clownishness aside and emit a snarling, sinewy presence that’s just enough to keep us from thinking, “Hey, that’s Snoop Dogg!” Let’s wait for him to move out and find a film worth living in.
Opens February 3