Apartment Zero (1988)
Director: Martin Donovan.
Starring: 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), Francesca d'Aloja (Claudia), Miguel Ligero (Mr. Palma), Elvia Andreoli (Adrian's Mother), Marikena Monti (Tango Singer), Luis Romero (Projectionist ).
murder mystery; the Argentine government hires foreign mercenaries to eliminate leftists
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Autumn 1988. This is a political thriller. British-Argentinean Adrian LeDuc is having a very hard time. His mother is in the hospital. She is dying and doesn't really know what's going on. He's very attached to her emotionally and very upset about the probability of her dying. Add to that is the problem that his Cinema Club is not doing well economically speaking. He is a real movie buff and loves old movies in English. All over his apartment he has pictures of movie stars like Montgomery Clift and Elizabeth Taylor. We're not done yet. The poor fellow is also a bit of a misanthrope and has few friends if any. So he is lonely, broke and in danger of losing his mother.
Because his economic situation is so bad, he decides to advertise for a roommate for his apartment, number zero. He wants someone who can speak English (although he can speak fluent Spanish) and doesn't smoke. He interviews quite a few applicants, but likes none of them, until Jack Carney, a very handsome American, comes to see the apartment. (There is a bit of attraction between the two men that hints of homosexuality.) Carney says he works at a computer company in Buenos Aires.
Carney is a friendly person who meets the neighbors. This upsets Adrian because he almost detests he neighbors. He wants nothing to do with them and limits any conversation to little more than hello and goodbye. He is so upset that Jack is so liked by the neighbors and talks with them that he asks Jack to refrain from talking with the neighbors. Jack already senses that Adrian has a great many mental disorders or worse. He is not going to stop talking to the neighbors, but he is going to talk to them more on the sly so he doesn't further upset Adrian. In other words, he is going to tolerate Adrian's many eccentricities.
On the television there is a great deal of news about a number of seemingly related murders in Buenos Aires. And these murders have in common the fact that they resemble the assassinations by professional killers in death squads used by the military dictatorship in Argentina to eliminate various leftists. All those people who engaged in torture and murder have not even been tried as of yet.
Adrian is almost obsessed with Jack. He fixes breakfast for Jack and does his laundry. He tries to have a very close relationship with Jack (perhaps even a homosexual relationship), but it's not that easy because Jack is a bit guarded to say the least. Adrian tries to figure this Jack fellow out, but can't get a good handle on him.
Jack goes to the Cinema Club with Adrian to see Compulsion. There he meets the ticket taker, a woman named Claudia, who is very concerned about Adrian's mental state. Jack asks Adrian to go with him and get some girls. Adrian is offended and says that's very irresponsible and he won't have any part of it. He goes on to say that "casual copulation" is not for him. Jack asks him if he even likes women? Adrian says he likes the kind of woman that can't just be picked up.
There is another murder (victim # 12) in the neighborhood.
There's an Italian woman who lives across from apartment zero and Jack is attracted to her. He starts talking to her and kisses her neck. They have sex (not shown).
The next morning Adrian gets very concerned when Jack does not answer the knocks on his door. He starts to open the door with a key when Jack suddenly shows up. Adrian visits his mother, but now she doesn't even recognize her own son. Adrian flees in fright. In a shopping mall Jack talks with the government agent. Jack then goes to see a movie. A cross-dresser that lives in Jack's apartment building gets hassled by a theater goer and Jack comes to his/her rescue.
After awhile Adrian starts getting suspicious about Jack's job. He goes through some of Jack's belongings and finds some pictures. Jack looks as though he is with some type of para-military unit. The unit is CU 2. Jack comes home and Adrian has to get out of Jack's room immediately. When Jack goes into his room, he realizes that Adrian has looked through his things.
The next morning, Adrian asks Jack isn't he going to work? Jacks says he's going when he is ready. Adrian leaves, but decides to follow Jack. He does a terrible job of shadowing Jack. A government agent passes Jack and tells him that he is being followed. So Jack walks to the business where he supposedly works. Adrian seems satisfied that Jack does work at the computer place and he turns around and leaves. After a short wait, Jack, who never actually went into the business, comes back out and continues his walk.
Claudia virtually begs Adrian to let her group use the theater during the day for one of their meetings. The group searches for the murderers and torturers of innocent Argentineans during the military dictatorship. Adrian finally gives in and let's her group use the theater. The group meets and shows a film about death squads. Part of the film deals with a unit called CU 2. Adrian is shocked because CU 2 was the squad Jack was in. Jack suddenly shows up behind Adrian, which scares the hell out of Adrian.
During the night Jack steals Adrian's passport. He leaves a note saying he will be away for awhile. Jack meets the agent and is paid his fee. He puts his pistol in a garbage receptacle.
Adrian's mother dies and Adrian is distraught.
Jack has taken out Adrian's photo from the passport and put his photo in its place. At the airport the inspector tells Jack that he can't leave the country until he gets the passport renewed and that is done through the police. Jack is really sweating. He says okay and leaves. He goes and retrieves his pistol from the garbage receptacle.
Claudia is with her group going over slides of photos of some men in the government death squads. Suddenly she recognizes Jack in one of the photo slides. She asks who is that man and is told he was Michael Weller, an American mercenary, now dead. Why is she asking about him? Claudia just says that she doesn't know.
Jack waits for his replacement. The man arrives. In the next scene a dead man lies on a bed in a hotel. Jack has killed his replacement. He mutilates the man's face so that he cannot be recognized.
Adrian gets drunk and starts throwing things. This upsets the neighbors who think that maybe something bad has happened to Jack. The television news is on and deals with the man who Jack recently killed. They decide to go up to Mr. LeDuc's apartment. The whole group of neighbors rush into Adrian's apartment as soon as he opens the door. They demand to know where Jack is. They push Adrian down on the floor and try to hold him there. Adrian gets away, but is chased down by the men and a struggle ensues. Adrian falls over the railing and lands on the ground floor. As blood starts flowing out from Adrian's head, Jack shows up. Everyone is shocked and somewhat ashamed of what they did.
Jack picks up Adrian and takes him back to apartment 0. He stitches up Adrian's head without benefit of anesthesia.
The funeral is held for Adrian's mother. Claudia goes to apartment 0. There she comes face to face with Jack. Adrian sees Claudia's car near his apartment building and quickly goes to his apartment. There he finds Claudia dead. Jack comes out with a pistol with a silencer on it. He promises Adrian that he will clean up the floor. He says Adrian is his brother and he loves him so much. He adds: "Don't be mad at me, okay?" Adrian now helps Jack dispose of the body. They wrap it up in multiple black plastic garbage bags, put it in a big chest and carry it down the stairs. Jack is laughing away as if nothing happened. They run into the Italian woman and her husband and Jack stops to talk with her. He says he is going to California tomorrow.
Jack drives the body out to a public garbage dump where they take the body out of the chest and throw it onto a garbage heap. The plastic bags come off the dead person's head, almost assuring that the body will be found easily. Adrian tries to do something about this, but gets so upset that he leaves the body alone and goes back to the car. Adrian asks if the two of them could go to California together. Jack likes the idea. Adrian is still upset and Jack tells him that he will get used to killing after awhile, but the first time he killed, he liked the feeling.
Adrian has second thoughts about what Jack and he did. Jack senses this and they both race to Jack's pistol case to get the pistol. Jack grabs Adrian and starts choking him. But he can't kill the man. He releases his grip. Adrian uses this opportunity to grab the pistol and the struggle for the pistol begins. The neighbors hear a shot. The cross-dresser says that Adrian was so upset that he may have killed himself. The Italian woman knocks on Adrian's door and asks him for Jack's address. Adrian tells her he doesn't have it.
Adrian starts drinking wine and asks the dead body of Jack if he wants any red wine? Adrian now takes on a hipper style of dressing.
The movie is a good thriller. My wife and son and I enjoyed the movie, though it was a long movie and at times dragged a little, but not enough to be a major objection. And everyone in the movie seemed so weird with a few minor exceptions. Adrian was a mental mess; his mother was in such bad condition that she could no longer recognize him; Jack is a psychopath who enjoys killing; and most of the older neighbors are eccentrics, with one a cross-dresser. Colin Firth was great as the very strange Adrian and Hart Bochner was good as the psychopath. There is a serial killer loose and the neighborhood is a bit on edge because of this. And all of this is set against the aftermath of the brutal Argentine military dictatorship, 1976 to 1983. Even though the dictatorship is over, people on the left are still being assassinated.
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.
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