Apartment Zero (1988) poster

Apartment Zero (1988)


UK. 1988.


Director/Story – Martin Donovan, Screenplay/Producers – Martin Donovan & David Koepp, Photography – Miguel Rodriguez, Music – Elia Cmiral, Art Direction – Miguel Angel Lumado. Production Company – The Summit Co.


Colin Firth (Adrian LeDuc), Hart Bochner (Jack Carney), Dora Bryan (Margaret McKinney), Liz Smith (Mary Louise McKinney), James Telfer (Vanessa), Fabrizio Bentivoglio (Carlos Sanchez-Verne), Mirella D’Angelo (Laura Werpachowsky), Francesca d’Aloja (Claudia)


Fastidious, neurotic Buenos Aires cinema manager Adrian LeDuc advertises for a roommate and finally decides upon American computer programmer Jack Carney. A peculiar relationship develops between the two of them, with Adrian insisting on doing everything for Jack. However, as the handsome Jack starts to seduce all the other people in the apartment building, both men and the women, Adrian begins to suspect that Jack is not the person he claims to be. Gradually, Adrian starts uncovering evidence that connects Jack to a terrorist organization.

Apartment Zero is a variation on The Odd Couple (1968) – one that has amusingly been taken and rewritten by way of The Tenant (1976). Here all the potential gay intimations that The Odd Couple joked around but avoided mentioning are brought out in the open and played up to the hilt for all the eyebrow waggling and dominant/submissive theatrics that Colin Firth and Hart Bochner can manage.

The most successful parts of the film come with a dark, scintillating brilliance as the enigmatic Hart Bochner appears as a mirror of the sexual fulfillments of all the other tenants in the building. However, Martin Donovan is a director with ants in his pants – he playfully twists and turns the film into everything from being an apartment house black comedy (like The Tenant with a sense of humour, albeit strained) to a political paranoia thriller and a dark psychological thriller about predatory bisexuality. There is a very eccentric ending (again like The Tenant) that fades out as Colin Firth takes on Hart Bochner’s identity.

Upright cinema manager Colin Firth and his roommate, the handsomely charming Hart Bochner in Apartment Zero (1988)
( t to r) Upright cinema manager Colin Firth and his roommate, the handsomely charming Hart Bochner

Unfortunately, in juggling all his balls at once Martin Donovan leaves half of them up in the air altogether – it is never made clear why Jack needs to leave the country so desperately, or what he is doing in it in the first place. Donovan frequently forgets these elements, turns away and starts to chase different angles altogether. There are all the tensions and elements of a horror film and a thriller present but the film is so all over the place and Martin Donovan so antsily contrary that none of them gel.

Argentinian-born director Martin Donovan should not be confused with the American actor Martin Donovan. Donovan later co-wrote Death Becomes Her (1992) with David Koepp and solo wrote/directed the werewolf film Mad at the Moon (1992). Co-writer David Koepp soon put some big-name A-budget productions under his belt, including scripts for Jurassic Park (1993) and sequel, The Shadow (1994), Mission: Impossible (1996) and Spider-Man (2002), before turning director with The Trigger Effect (1996), Stir of Echoes (1999), Secret Window (2004), Ghost Town (2008), Premium Rush (2012), Mortdecai (2015) and You Should Have Left (2020).

Trailer here

Actors: , , , ,
Themes: , , , ,