Apartment Zero (1998)

Posted by Mrs Giggles on October 27, 2009 in 4 Oogies, Film Reviews, Genre: Crime & Thriller

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Apartment Zero (1998)
Apartment Zero (1998)

Main cast: Hart Bochner (Jack Carney), Colin Firth (Adrian LeDuc), Dora Bryan (Margaret McKinney), Liz Smith (Mary Louise McKinney), Fabrizio Bentivoglio (Carlos Sanchez-Verne), James Telfer (Vanessa), Mirella D’Angelo (Laura Werpachowsky), Juan Vitali (Alberto Werpachowsky), Cipe Lincovsky (Mrs Treniev), and Francesca d’Aloja (Claudia)
Director: Martin Donovan


Apartment Zero is a fascinating movie that is simultaneously an insidious kind of dark and even satirical comedy as well as a thriller. The homoerotic undertones between the two leading male characters are amped up in a blatant yet shockingly seductive manner that this one can very well also be a haunting love story between two men too damaged to acknowledge what they dare not admit even to themselves and instead substitute affection with violence, which of course they are more than capable of dishing out on each other.

Imagine Norman Bates taking in Jack the Ripper as a tenant in his motel and those two realize that they may be soul mates. Colin Firth plays Adrian LeDuc, an Argentinian in Buenos Aires whose life revolves around his Alzheimer-stricken mother and his movie theater, Café Reel. Adrian lives his life rigidly like a hermit in his apartment (numbered zero, hence the title of this movie), pretending to be British like the Anglophile he is, and memorizing trivias related to American movies that he plays at his theatre. Eccentric, stricken with obsessive compulsive disorder, and paranoid about his neighbors, Adrian is a reclusive neurotic man whose single thread to sanity is currently frayed the way his mother’s health is fraying.

The last thing he needs is to take in a tenant to help him pay the rent of his apartment, a seductive man named Jack Carney whose appearance coincides with a number of mysterious deaths around Buenos Aires. Jack openly embraces American machismo from his swagger to his appearance. While today Jack would come off like a walking Village People reject, Adrian however is moved to gasp aloud that Jack reminds him of James Dean. Adrian, vulnerable to Jack’s masculine machismo, soon finds himself trying to become Jack’s good friend while Jack isn’t above taking advantage of Adrian’s susceptibility to him. However, Jack has too many secrets while Adrian is too damaged to deal with rejection so it seems inevitable that things will get ugly soon enough.

I don’t think I am spoiling the movie if I say that Jack is the person responsible for the high-profile murders taking place in Buenos Aires. Jack is a ruthless killer who isn’t above using the attraction of both men and women to him to use them for his own gains. In his free time, he seduces Adrian’s neighbors to the point that they see him as some kind of hero. But Jack’s past and his secrets aren’t high on the director and scriptwriter Martin Donovan’s list of priorities, which explains why even by the end of the movie, Jack’s past and his reason for coming to Buenos Aires remain a question mark. Instead, the movie focuses on the relationship between Jack and Adrian.

Colin Firth uses his trademark gentle and proper stiff-lipped Mr Rochester persona to good use here as his Adrian comes off as a man who has to desperately cling on to his fantasies and delusions or he will completely fall apart. Tragic and pitiful, Adrian falls for Jack’s charms from the moment Jack shows up at his door. From Adrian’s awkward attempt to appease Jack by offering to do the man’s laundry and prepare breakfast for him to Adrian’s painful-to-watch pain when he in a fit of jealousy-induced panic rebuffs Jack’s invitation for the two of them to pick up women at some nightspot in town, it is clear to all but Adrian what is happening to the poor man. Yet this movie allows Adrian to keep some semblance of dignity by making Jack’s behavior around Adrian ambiguous enough to make me wonder. It is obvious on one hand that Jack is using Adrian, but towards the end of the movie, it is Jack who ends up being the one desperate for Adrian to be by his side. How the table is turned makes for some delicious kind of irony. Later in the movie, there are many things that Jack says to Adrian, as well as his willingness to take Adrian along with him when he could have abandoned Adrian, to suggest that perhaps Jack is as equally confused about their relationship as Adrian is.

There are some murder scenes in here, nothing too gory or explicit, and these scenes are laced with dark comedic overtones. Indeed, this movie often uses discreet to obvious satirical elements to pay homage to various suspense thrillers of the past from the likes of Alfred Hitchcock and others of his ilk, these elements including the deliberate amping up of homoerotic undertones between two male adversaries. However, there is nothing campy or farcical about the relationship between Jack and Adrian. It is instead a fascinating, sometimes touchingly romantic, sometimes deliciously dark and twisted relationship between two antiheroes, one who knows and gleefully embraces the fact that he is evil beyond redemption and one who is only starting to realize how evil he can be.

Therefore, imagine my disappointment when Apartment Zero serves up a very pedestrian and predictable Hollywood-type ending when the rest of the movie has been a dark and thrilling rollercoaster of antiheroic noirish goodness and hot homoerotic overtones between two fascinating and fabulously memorable bad guys. This flaw is a near fatal one where I am concerned, but fortunately, I adore too much of this movie to be cheesed off completely by the lame ending. I’m not upset about what happens at the end, let me make this clear, I’m just rolling up my eyes at the events in the last ten minutes of the movie that leads to the ending.

Also, while on one hand I find Hart Bochner attractive enough for the role of Jack Carney, he sometimes act a little too hammy for my liking. Still, Jack Carney goes a little to make up for Supergirl.

Apartment Zero has hot manlove that does not speak its name as well as plenty of dark and dangerous moments and dark comedy. Apart from the lame last few minutes of the show, there is much to enjoy in this naughty little romp.

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