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Cinema Signal: Beyond the stark, raving sexual madness there's only voyeurism.
. "The Resident"

You'd think there'd be a no vacancy sign out for yet another obsessed-stalker thriller but, no, there's always room at this inn. At least this one satisfies on a higher level than most with the elegantly beautiful and superbly-conditioned Hilary Swank of "Million Dollar Baby."

It would seem that, in order to get her into this low-rise building of a film they had to offer her an executive producership. Or, was it the other way around? In any case, Swank understood what she had to do to conform to the formula for such fare. Like a gauzed-up near-frontal bathing scene with a flash of nudity, and an after-bathing self-body rub to make sure no one would doubt that she has the werewithal to make a madman reach for his tape and handcuffs. Swank, head to toe, is a beauty, no contest.

She's Dr. Juliet Dermer, a surgeon in a Manhattan hospital, no less, and when she follows an ad for a vacant apartment and meets male hunk Max (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) putting finishing touches on the uplift he's giving the place with the rare and fabulous. Surely it's above her pay scale. For a surgeon? But, wait. He offers it for what passes for low rent on this island--an offer she can't refuse.

The joker masquerading as an ace card in this setup is that landlord Max is absolutely appealing. Such that, when he visits the hospital and Dermer's pal meets him, she's all over Dermer to hook up with this "catch" of a guy. He quickly agrees to walk the doc home when she asks, and acts like a positive doll when they sit down to rest and get acquainted on a park bench. He's empathetic, sweet and anything but pushy. An accomodating marshmallow.

As might be expected, she's getting the vibe for this virile suitor even though she's off a rebound from her old beau Jack (Lee Pace) from whom she recently split. But, when she follows her inpulses and leads the available male to her bed, she suddenly realizes her mind's still on Jack and cuts it off before she consumates with a rebound lover.

What she didn't know was that Jack, somewhat of a carpenter, had the place staked out in every room with peep holes concealed with false grillwork, one-way mirrors and hidden entryways. The place is honey-combed with tunneling between the walls. There's more to Max's vacancy than meets the eye, including how he lured the doc here in the first place.

Well, by the time Jack revives the relationship with a phone call, flowers and a meal at home, you can almost guess what it does to the peeping Tom who thought he had control of the situation. If you've ever seen a defenseless-lass horror story before there's no need to fill in the details. Suffice it to say it turns violent and ugly.

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What helps out a poorly written script is the attractiveness of the principles and their above average acting skills that more commonly show up in the genre. If it weren't for the vibrant demographic that hankers for slash films, you could say these actors are overqualified meat for this grist mill. You can't blame actors for making a buck, though. Or, can we?

Morgan has made his mark with roles of the evil demented. Even when he's one of the the so-called good guys, as in "Watchmen," he comes off powerfully gruesome and hateful. So he's got a rare opportunigy here to suggest how decent and attractive he can be in a role that calls for it. But Swank? I never thought I'd see the incarnation of Amelia Earhart ("Amelia") within such bloody, overtly commercial walls as these.

Christopher Lee ("The Lord of the Rings") is good for a few chilling moments as August, Max's old and annoyingly critical father.

It's compelling formula fare for the young, mostly male. Grossly missable for the rest of us. Don't confuse it with the long-running "Resident Evil" series of films with Milla Jovovich.

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                                      ~~  Jules Brenner  

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Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Hilary Swank
An inside track for a stalker.

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