[Screen It]


(1999) (Robert De Niro, Philip Seymour Hoffman) (R)

Blood/Gore Disrespectful/
Bad Attitude
Tense Scenes
Moderate Mild Extreme Moderate Extreme
Mild None Moderate None Extreme
Smoking Tense Family
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Drama: A retired and decidedly macho New York City security guard suffers a stroke and reluctantly turns to his flamboyant drag queen neighbor for therapeutic singing lessons as part of his recovery
Walt Koontz (ROBERT DE NIRO) is a tough, former New York City security guard who spends his days playing handball with the locals and his nights at a dance club with a hooker, Karen (WANDA DE JESUS), whom he considers his girlfriend.

That's when he's not rebuking the affections of Tia (DAPHNE RUBIN-VEGA), a young dancer who's attracted to him, or spending time at home, a rundown residential motel run by the shady Leonard Wilcox (BARRY MILLER), where he still basks in the limelight of being a former hero who once saved several people in a hostage situation.

Now, and much to his homophobic chagrin, he must contend with his neighbor, Rusty Zimmerman (PHILIP SEYMOUR HOFFMAN), a flamboyant drag queen who practices his show routines with his other friends in drag. The two obviously don't get along and often exchange abusive profanities at one another.

Yet, when Walt hears gunfire coming from the floor above him -- the result of a man having stolen money from Mr. Z (LUIS SAGUAR), a local, but dangerous criminal -- he springs into action, gun drawn, and heads off to help. He never gets to, however, as he's suddenly besieged by a stroke that leaves him with a partial paralysis on the right side of his body.

Unable to walk, talk, or pretty much do anything the way he could before, Walt becomes a depressed recluse, not even answering the repeated calls of his former security guard buddy, Tommy Walsh (SKIPP SUDDUTH). When a physical therapist suggests that Walt take singing lessons to improve his speaking abilities, Walt reluctantly approaches Rusty, offering to pay for his help.

Although the two don't get along due to their differences, and Walt isn't initially sure that any of this is a great idea, the two forge an odd, but progressively more amicable relationship as each comes to know what makes the other tick. As Walt's recovery continues, however, his, Rusty's and other's lives are threatened by the persistent pursuit of Mr. Z and his thugs to find out who in the building has their money.

Unless they're fans of De Niro or Hoffman, it's not very likely.
For pervasive language and strong violence.
  • ROBERT DE NIRO plays a homophobic, macho and former New York City security guard who reluctantly asks for his drag queen neighbor's help in aiding his recovery from a stroke. Along the way he uses strong profanity and buys the services of a prostitute (although he doesn't see it that way -- he thinks the woman actually likes him).
  • PHILLIP SEYMOUR HOFFMAN plays his flamboyant but tough drag queen neighbor who agrees to give him singing lessons to make money for a sex change operation. He also uses strong profanity throughout the film.
  • LUIS SAGUAR plays a murderous villain.
  • SKIPP SUDDUTH plays Walt's buddy who tries to get him out of his funk and then jokingly makes fun of him for hanging out with people he previously never would have.


    Curious if this title is entertaining, any good, and/or has any artistic merit?
    Then read OUR TAKE of this film.

    (Note: The "Our Take" review of this title examines the film's artistic merits and does not take into account any of the possibly objectionable material listed below).

    The following is a quick look at the content found in this R-rated drama. Profanity is extreme with more than 150 "f" words being used along with many other profanities and colorful phrases. Violence is also rated as extreme due to several deaths via gunfire as well as other non-lethal violence and threats of violence. Some of those scenes may be tense or unsettling to some viewers and a few of them have mild, bloody results.

    Some sexual activity is implied but isn't seen, while some sexually related comments are made (including those related to a phone sex commercial), and one of the major characters and many supporting ones are gay men dressed as drag queens. Many bad attitudes abound, including those from the villains and one of the film's main characters who's a bigot.

    Drug use is present in several scenes, while drinking and smoking also occur in various scenes and involve various characters. Although it's questionable how many kids will want to see this film, we suggest that you take a closer look at the listed content should you still be concerned about its appropriateness for anyone in your home.

  • People have drinks in a dance club.
  • People have drinks in a gay club where Rusty has a glass of wine.
  • We briefly see some people smoking some sort of drug through a pipe.
  • Rusty has wine and later carries a bottle of liquor when coming home.
  • Walt's neighbor admits that he's been dealing some drugs.
  • Walt sees Rusty who appears to be somewhat intoxicated.
  • Walt and Rusty have drinks.
  • Some people playing poker drink.
  • People drink at a party, where Rusty appears to be smoking a joint. After the party is done, Walt has a beer.
  • Karen has a drink.
  • Rusty carries an open bottle of champagne.
  • A man's nose is bloody after being punched.
  • A man has a small, bloody hole in his forehead.
  • A man who's been shot is a little bloody.
  • Walt has a slightly bloody bandage on his shoulder.
  • A man steals money from some criminals (all of whom have bad attitudes) who then come after him and end up murdering several people.
  • De Niro has both toward Rusty and his friends (for being drag queens) and early on even says, "F*ck the gay community."
  • Several characters are hookers and Walt repeatedly sees one (but he excuses it by her saying that she's low on rent money) and tells Tia that she's not a woman but a "whore." When he no longer has any money, however, Karen won't see him again.
  • Leonard, the front desk clerk, is on the take from Mr. Z and is his informant and rats out others to him. He also opens Rusty's mail to read it.
  • Hoffman's having an affair with a married man.
  • Some viewers may find a scene where Mr. Z's men chase after another man who's just robbed them as somewhat tense.
  • Mr. Z's men kick open a door, their guns drawn, and encounter a man in bed with his gun drawn. We then hear gunshots (as we see Walt getting up from the sound) and then see Walt with his gun (who then collapses in the stairwell from a stroke). We then see the flashes of gunfire as two people are shot and murdered (we only see the flashes and hear the shots).
  • We briefly see Walt holding a gun to his own head, planning to commit suicide (he doesn't).
  • More violent encounters (listed under "Violence") may also be tense to some viewers, including the entire ending sequence.
  • Handguns/Knives: Used to threaten, wound, or kill people. See "Violence" for details.
  • Phrases: "Shut the f*ck up," "Go f*ck yourself," "What the f*ck," "Fat f*ck," "F*ck off," "Sh*t house," "Holy sh*t," "Sh*tload," "Bitch" (said many times), "Faggot," "Fruitcakes," "Whore," "Scum," "Skanky whore," "Dykes," "Shut up," "Fat boy," "Freaks," "Balls," "Ass wipe," "Gimpy," "Piss" and "Bastard."
  • It's always possible that the film could inspire some kids to dress up in drag.
  • None.
  • A moderate amount of adventurous/suspenseful music plays during the film.
  • None.
  • Due to some difficult to understand dialogue as well as some that occurs off camera/from a distance, the following should be considered an absolute minimum.
  • At least 153 "f" words (12 used with "mother"), 25 "s" words, 12 slang terms for or using male genitals ("pr*ck," "d*ck" and "c*cks*cker"), 9 slang terms for or using female genitals ("p*ssy" and "c*nt"), 5 slang terms for breasts (various versions of "t*t"), 10 asses (1 used with "hole"), 2 hells, 1 S.O.B. and 8 uses of "Oh my God," 6 of "G-damn," 3 of "Jesus Christ, 2 of "Oh Christ" and 1 use each of "Oh God," "For God's sakes" and "Jesus" as exclamations.
  • Some hookers, including Tia and Karen show cleavage in a dance club and in other scenes.
  • During his stage show, Rusty asks a man he's brought up onto the stage if he's gay and the man answers "a little bit."
  • We see Karen still in bed presumably after she and Walt have had sex (he then gives her money for her "rent"). She says, "What a man" and he replies, "What a woman."
  • Walt tells Rusty, "Go f*ck yourself" and the drag queen replies "I've had worse."
  • One drag queen says to the next (what sounded like), "I heard your tired p*ssy was on sale at the international house of c*nt."
  • After his therapist tells Walt that he can visit with his friends on the phone and even have phone sex, we see Walt watching a phone sex commercial where the camera pans up a scantily clad woman's body and hear the narrator mentioning "hot girls" waiting by the phone, that they're hot, wild and willing and offering to make the caller's fantasies come true.
  • When Walt reluctantly asks for Rusty's help, the drag queen replies that he'd rather "suck Hitler's dead d*ck."
  • Trying to embarrass Walt enough to let him inside his place, Rusty loudly says in the hallway, "Walt, I want you baby...please put it inside me."
  • Joking about what types of music he does and doesn't do, Rusty states that he doesn't do Sinatra, but then adds, "But I'm sure I'm the only girl who hasn't."
  • Walt asks if Rusty's kind pays for sex and then adds that he doesn't have to pay for sex himself (although he really does).
  • Rusty mentions that as long as some gay republicans get down on their knees and "suck d*ck," that they're all his "sisters."
  • Rusty throws a "graduation" party for Walt and has a cake with two mounds on it shaped liked female breasts.
  • Rusty tells Walt, "I'm more man than you'll ever be and more woman than you'll ever get."
  • We see Walt and Tia in bed (under the covers) after having sex. He says that it was the first time since his stroke. She replies that she was nervous because of that but then adds that he was great. He responds, "You were."
  • Rusty smokes at least five times, while Walt smokes a few. Other miscellaneous or background characters smoke in many scenes.
  • We hear Rusty get a phone call with bad news and later learn that he's returned from his mother's funeral and he briefly relates his parent's former bad response to him being a drag queen. He also briefly goes into his parents having a bad marriage.
  • Drag queens, homosexuality and people wishing to have sex change operations (which is what Rusty wants).
  • The results of having a stroke.
  • Walt's change of heart toward Rusty.
  • Mr. Z's men kick open a door, their guns drawn, and encounter a man in bed with his gun drawn. We then hear gunshots (as we see Walt getting up from the sound) and then see Walt with his gun (who collapses in the stairwell from a stroke). We then see the flashes of gunfire as two people are shot and murdered (we only see the flashes and hear the shots).
  • Mr. Z's thugs hold their guns on Rusty.
  • Two factions of gay men struggle and have to be separated.
  • Mr. Z's thugs chase after a woman they believe stole their money and then pin her back against a wall, holding a gun on her.
  • Walt sees Rusty's boyfriend punch him.
  • Mr. Z's thugs push a man up against a wall and then punch him. They then proceed to repeatedly kick him. After they leave, his girlfriend then kicks him.
  • Rusty throws a glass against a door.
  • We see that Mr. Z's men killed Wilcox's mother's bird and are threatening to kill her. Mr. Z then slams Wilcox's head to the floor.
  • Mr. Z's thugs accost Rusty and Mr. Z then punches him. We then hear more sounds of violence as Walt comes to the rescue with his gun drawn. We then see the thugs holding Rusty and Mr. Z repeatedly punching him in the gut. Walt then comes in, and one of the thugs shoots him in the shoulder (and may have been shot as well). Rusty then slams his sharp high heel into one of the villains' feet and one of the thugs fires at him. They then go tumbling and struggling down the stairs. Rusty then hits him on the head, but the thug then drags him down the stairs. Rusty then slams the thug in the head with his high heel (presumably killing him).
  • A thug then shoots at Rusty, but he then uses a wheelchair to knock the thug down some steps. Later, he drops a vase/potted plant on the thug's head. Meanwhile, Mr. Z tries to beat down Rusty's secure door to get to Walt.
  • A gun standoff then occurs and Rusty stabs a knife into Mr. Z's leg giving Walt the opportunity to shoot him dead (which he does).

  • Reviewed October 26, 1999 / Posted November 24, 1999

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