Apartment Zero

[Theatrical Version]
Dir: Martin Henderson
Star: Colin Firth, Hart Bochner, Dora Bryan, Liz Smith

The press release claims this is its first release on DVD - which makes me wonder about the legality of the Platinum version, reviewed previously and now out of print. This edition contains the theatrical version, seven minutes longer, albeit changes the director himself approved at the time. To tell the truth, we were hard pushed to tell the difference, though it's a couple of years since we last saw the film. Perhaps more significantly, this release comes with two commentaries, by writer-director Henderson, plus co-writer David (Panic Room) Koepp and a "special guest". While I won't spoil that by saying who it is, he doesn't actually have much to do with this film, yet is an interesting choice.

The film remains an fascinating, if imperfect, attempt at mixing genres which are rarely put together: part political thriller, part serial killer flick, with a healthy dose of black comedy, and for good measure, a solid chunk of homoeroticism. It's set in Buenos Aires, where Jack (Bochner) is the new flatmate for Adrian (Firth), a neurotic cinema owner dealing with the steady decline of his hospitalized mother, who hates his neighbours. At first, Jack seems a stabilizing influence, bringing Adrian out of his shell; then questions start to plague the landlord about his tenant. There's also a series of brutal murders, done in the style of the death squads that plagued Argentina a few years before. You wonder whether Adrian is to blame, until the pendulum of evidence apparently swings towards Jack. So, which one is truly insane?

The main weakness is, it tries to keep too many balls in the air. For example, the surplus of kooky tenants dragged in, when the marvellous Bryan + Smith are all the film needs; the political angle is undercooked too. But Firth's performance has the twitchy edge of a young Anthony Perkins, while Bochner is a contrast, observing people with a calm gaze like that of Christian Bale. Both are excellent; their mutually manipulative relationship, combined with the claustrophobic setting, makes engrossing viewing. A creepy, psychologically twisted piece of work, this is definitely worth checking out.

[The DVD is released by Union Station Media on Feb. 20th, and includes the commentaries described above.]

February 2007

Room to let
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