Tenement 66 features some strong performances in Francis Magundayo, Francine Diaz, and Noel Comia Jr., as well of some tense action, but may not necessarily reinvent the genre in any meaningful way.
Crime-thrillers are a dime a dozen in Philippine cinema, so when one comes along, it’s worth at least a look. With Tenement 66 and the talent behind it, this movie was worth more than just a peek. On paper, the film had the makings to be a memorable film. This drama crime thriller was directed by promising up-and-coming director Rae Red. It had a talented cast that included the likes of Francis Magundayo, Francine Diaz, and Noel Comia Jr. It also had a plot that had the makings for a compelling thrill ride and even premiered in an international film festival.
Tenement 66 is now finally out and the results are quite good. The movie has a strong leading cast and there are moments where it really ratchets up the tension, but the film’s biggest downfall is that the movie could have been way better than what it is, potential that wasn’t fully tapped.
TEEN DELINQUENTS MEET CRIME THRILLER
Tenement 66 follows Teban (Francis Magundayo) a young man who just got bailed out of prison. He, along with his older brother Tony and cousin Ron-ron (Noel Comia Jr.) move into the titular residential building. Teban isn’t looking to get back to a life of crime. He wants to help his older brother make some money and pay off their debt by getting a job. One day, Tony gets involved in an accident which leaves Teban with expensive medical bills.
He then meets a young woman named Lea (Francine Diaz), his neighbor who asks him to help her rob their neighbor, Old Man Nando (Lou Veloso). She tells him that she saw him steal a large sum of money and that they should steal it back and split it amongst themselves. At first, Teban refuses, but with mounting debt and bills to pay, he agrees and Ron-ron reluctantly comes along. But their heist soon becomes their biggest nightmare when they get caught, are held hostage, and realize that their neighbors are holding some dark and twisted secrets.
A STRONG LEADING CAST
Tenement 66 wouldn’t be as enjoyable if it weren’t for an overall strong cast, especially with the three leads. Francis Magundayo plays Teban as the reluctant hero. The first thing we see is him leaving prison and it’s established early on that Teban wants a better life for himself outside of doing crimes. His actions in the movie are done not because he wants to, but because he needs to. Teban is a conflicted character and Francis Magundayo is able to bring that out.
This is the first time we’ve ever seen Francine Diaz play a role this dark, but she pulls it off. Lea is not dark or brooding just because, she has a justifiable back story. She has an abusive father and wants to escape from him and the building. She’s jaded because, like Teban, she wants better things for her life, but can’t make it. You don’t see the sweet little girl type that Francine usually goes for in Lea. She’s street smart, slightly cynical, and even somewhat broken. Ron-ron, meanwhile, is the innocent one between the three and has the least baggage. Because he isn’t bogged down by past actions, Ron-ron comes off as the voice of reason for the group somewhat and Noel Comia Jr. is able to hit that feeling with his acting.
As a crime-thriller, Tenement 66 is good, for the genre’s standards. It doesn’t shake the formula in any meaningful way, but what it does it does well. Rae Red is able to bring out the tension with her direction, especially in some of the more pivotal scenes. Since most of the movie is set in a residential building, the film uses its space well. It turns a dilapidated old building and makes it stylized thanks to Pao Orendian’s cinematography. Meanwhile, the production design by Mikey Red gives the space almost like an organized or calculated mess. The crew used what space they had well and turned it into a distressing place that helps build the atmosphere. There will be moments where you will hold your breath in anticipation of what’s going to happen.
Aside from the suspense of the movie, Tenement 66 also deals with or tries to talk about the theme of finding yourself and free will, the feeling that you are in control of your life and can be and do more than where you initially come from. While it’s commendable for a movie like this to tackle this theme, the execution leaves much to be desired. While it is hinted at in some parts of the movie and talked about more near the end, the theme is not really pushed through fully. Especially, in the end, Tenement 66 tries to make a big point about finding yourself, but it feels a bit rushed and not as hard-hitting as it should be.
A BIT MORE OF A PUSH
The biggest problem with the movie is that it has the potential to be great, but doesn’t fully commit to it. For example, in the more suspenseful and heart-pounding scenes, the movie hints or teases at some truly horrifying and disturbing things, but it doesn’t expound on them more. The worst part is that the film sometimes rushes or just pads over them to move on to the next scene. The villain in this movie is so compelling and what he does could make for some uncomfortable visuals, but we don’t get to see more of it.
Overall, Tenement 66 may not be the jaw-dropping shocker that some people may have thought it would be, but it’s still a good movie. Francis Magundayo, Francine Diaz, and Noel Comia Jr. all turn in great performances with their mix of street smarts and vulnerability as troubled teens. The technical aspect of the movie is great too as Rae Red and her team are able to deliver on the tension and suspense in the scenes. The film just falls flat though when it tries to give more than just good. Watching the movie, you can tell that Tenement 66 could have done more and the potential was there. You might not end this movie as impacted as some others in the genre, but it may leave you satisfied with what it has to offer.
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