“Apartment 5C” is indistinguishable from a number of independent U.S. pics that deal with the seamy side of life in the big city, except that it’s primarily a French production and it’s not as interesting as most. Thoroughly routine item is the third effort from French director Raphael Nadjari, after “The Shade” (1999) and “I’m Josh Polonski’s Brother” (2001), and its sole distinguishing factor is the haunting, bluesy music score by John Surman that accompanies a grungy tale about unattractive characters. Euro bookings are indicated, given the film’s production genesis, but it’s hard to see much of a career for this one elsewhere.
Nicky (Tinkerbell) and Uri (Ori Pfeffer) are Israelis who have overstayed their visitors’ visas in the U.S. They’re staying in a cheap Manhattan hotel and making ends meet by robbing local stores at gunpoint. When things get too hot (Nicky, idiotically, attempts to rob a deli that Uri had robbed a few hours earlier), they flee to a small apartment in Brooklyn.
One night, while fooling around with their gun, Nicky is accidentally shot in the leg. Uri flees, never to be seen again, and she’s cared for by Harold (Richard Edson), the building’s scruffy maintenance man. Harold is the brother-in-law of Max (Jeff Ware), the cynical, wheelchair-confined building manager.
Nicky makes a startlingly quick recovery (in one scene she has to get Harold to help her undress, and a few moments later she’s attempting to help him fix the pipes in the building), and a relationship develops between the lonely pair, one that Max vigorously opposes. Pic ends with a scene involving a killing that is poorly motivated and borderline ridiculous.
It’s pretty difficult to get interested in any of these people, and the actors are given few opportunities to bring their contrived characters to life. Israeli actress Tinkerbell is quite unable to make Nicky convincing, and Edson’s morose Harold is equally uninspired.
Visually, the film belongs squarely in the hand-held grunge school, but the music, most of it played on the sax and bass clarinet, brings a haunting mournfulness to the film that is conspicuously lacking elsewhere.