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MOVIE REVIEW : ‘Zero’ Doesn’t Add Up as a Thriller

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The one thing you can say for “Apartment Zero” (at the Royal) is that they’ve got that numeral in the title right: This overwrought and underdeveloped psychological thriller with heavy-handed political implications adds up to exactly nothing.

It’s the kind of genre piece in which logic must be airtight, yet fledgling film maker Martin Donovan would have us believe that you can fall down a stairwell and emerge with only a cut over your eye, and that a shrewd serial killer would leave incriminating photos in a dresser drawer.

Nothing, however, makes much sense right from the start. We soon learn that Hart Bochner’s handsome, insinuating Jack Carney has every reason to seek privacy and security, yet he rents a room from Colin Firth’s Adrian LeDuc, who clearly spells trouble for him. A fussy, overattentive and intensely repressed film buff with an incestuous passion for his crazy hospitalized mother, LeDuc registers an instant attraction to Jack, who responds with a laid-back, tantalizing seductiveness. Since there is no credibility in Jack accepting Adrian as a landlord--let alone toying with such an up-tight, obvious weirdo--there is really no credibility in all that follows.

Donovan seems to have overdosed on Losey’s “The Servant,” Polanski’s “The Tenant” and the Roeg-Cammell “Performance"--just for starters. He strives to establish Jack and Adrian as one of those calamitous but inevitable teams, reminiscent of Chicago child-killers Leopold and Loeb, in which we’re supposed to perceive larger meanings. The setting of “Apartment Zero” is present-day Buenos Aires, with Adrian as a native Argentine who insists on speaking English after having been raised in Great Britain and Jack as an American ostensibly there on some sort of corporate training program. Donovan and co-writer David Koepp attempt, in their increasingly morbid horror-picture context, to comment on the evil of the notorious death squads of Argentina’s former military regime and to suggest further that killing becomes addictive.

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Unfortunately, the long-winded “Apartment Zero” is awkward to the point of ludicrousness. Firth has the determination and skill to make Adrian consistently pathetic and believable, but Bochner is allowed to lapse into striking attitudes and poses. British actresses Dora Bryan and Liz Smith play the nosiest of Adrian and Jack’s neighbors as caricatures. With its tango-tinged score and moody lighting, “Apartment Zero” (Times-rated Mature) looks and sounds far better than it is.

‘APARTMENT ZERO’

A Skouras Pictures release of a Summit Co. presentation from Academy Entertainment. Executive producer Stephen J. Cole. Producers Martin Donovan, David Koepp. Director Martin Donovan. Screenplay Donovan, Koepp; from a story by Donovan. Camera Miguel Rodriguez. Music Elia Cmiral. Production designer Miguel Angel Lumaldo. Associate producers Ezequiel Donovan, Brian Reynolds. Film editor Conrad M. Gonzalez. With Colin Firth, Hart Bochner, Dora Bryan, Liz Smith, Fabrizio Bentivoglio, James Telfer, Cipe Lincovsky.

Running time: 2 hours, 4 minutes.

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Times-rated: Mature.


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