By Brian Costello,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Some violence, language, drinking in clunky thriller.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
No real messages in clunky thriller.
Positive Role Models
Lead character gets into trouble due to spying on the villain. The villain is a con artist who physically abuses his girlfriend.
Violence & Scariness
Lead character uses a sword to kill another character, stabs it into his chest; blood. The villain slaps his girlfriend hard in the face when she accidentally spills coffee on him. Later, she tells someone that the injury is due to "falling into a cabinet." Guns drawn. The villain vandalizes the penthouse apartment of the lead characters, breaking photos, spitting into water bottles, stealing their dog.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Girlfriend of the villain is usually in skimpy and revealing clothing -- short shorts, tight shirts.
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"F--k" used a few times. Also: "a--hole," "bulls--t," "s--t," "pissed," "bitch," "crap," "bastard," "damn."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
The villain is shown drunk and surly in a bar, threatening to get in a fight with another patron. The lead characters, a husband and wife, drink a lot of wine throughout the movie. Beer drinking. Cigar smoking.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Penthouse is a 2021 thriller in which a man gets more than he bargained for when he starts spying on an arguing couple living on a houseboat from his penthouse patio. Expect some violence, including a character stabbing another in the chest with a sword and killing him. The villian physically abuses his girlfriend, slapping her hard in the face when she accidentally spills coffee on him. She later tells the wife of the lead character that she "fell into a cabinet" when asked about the bruise on her face. There's also some profanity throughout, including "f--k." Wine drinking throughout, some drunkenness. The villian is shown drunk at a bar on the verge of getting into a physical altercation with another patron. Beer drinking. Cigar smoking.
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What's the Story?
In THE PENTHOUSE, Peter (David Schifter) is a successful marina owner, married to Amanda (Vanessa Ore), a successful surf shop owner. Together, they decide to purchase the luxury top-floor penthouse that overlooks the island on which they live. As they settle into their new home, they begin to notice a couple who live on a houseboat in the waters below, and how they always seem to be arguing. Peter grows increasingly fascinated by them, and even buys a telescope to get a better view. One day, the woman on the boat, Tess, browses Amanda's surf shop, and Amanda tries to befriend her, but Tess seems shy and scared. The man they've been spying on, Charles (Michael Pare), is a "storm chasing" con artist, a "general contractor" who goes up and down the East Coast and offers to repair storm-damaged homes but doesn't do the work once he gets the money. Soon, Peter and Amanda notice that Tess is no longer on the boat. One evening while out on the town, Peter and Amanda see Charles at the bar. Peter tries to introduce himself to Charles, and tells him how they can see him on his boat from their penthouse. Charles, drunk and surly, finds this to be creepy and intrusive, and asks Peter to leave. But the next day, Charles shows up outside of Peter's building and apologizes, inviting him to stop by the houseboat for a beer. Peter takes him up on the offer, thus setting a series of events in motion that put Peter's livelihood in jeopardy, as well as their lives and home. As Peter begins to learn the extent of Charles' horrible actions, he must find a way to stop Charles once and for all.
Is It Any Good?
This is a thriller marred by clunky direction and storytelling. The Penthouse is a movie about a guy who spies on a man and woman in a houseboat from the patio of his top-floor luxury living space, and gets a lot more than he ever bargained for. While Michael Pare does bring an element of creepy nastiness to his character, with a hint of violence always on the verge of exploding, the rest of the acting is amateur hour at best. In terms of the story, if you happen to step away for two minutes and worry that you might have missed something, don't worry, because the lead characters make a point to explain what they just experienced to either each other or their friends, often over wine. The premise is stretched to the point of absurdity, and the overreliance on drone camera shots of the North Carolina island where this movie is set starts to seem like they take up at least a third of the movie.
Rear Window, it's not. Despite Pare's character being a total jerk, he can't be blamed for believing that Peter's spying is more than a little intrusive and creepy. And when Peter tells Charles that he's been observing him from his penthouse patio as if it's something interesting and maybe a little quirky, it really makes no sense. Peter's spying doesn't really make any sense. He doesn't seem that bored. He's not confined to a wheelchair with a broken leg. It's all part of the clunkiness, an attempt at a slow build-up of tension that doesn't really build up, unless one is interested in seeing a surf shop opening up for business on a random weekday morning, or what the paperwork is like if you own a marina.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about thriller movies like The Penthouse. How does this compare to other thrillers you've seen? What is the appeal of thrillers?
How did the movie try to ratchet up the tension and suspense? Did it work? Why or why not?
What were some of the ways in which the movie showed that the villain was a bad person? What are some other examples of ways in which characters are revealed to be good or bad early in the movie?
- On DVD or streaming: April 13, 2021
- Cast: Michael Pare, David Schifter, Vanessa Ore
- Director: Massimilianio Cerchi
- Studio: Lionsgate
- Genre: Thriller
- Run time: 88 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: Language and brief violence.
- Last updated: April 2, 2023
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