Adam's Apples **1/2
Directed by Anders Thomas Jensen
Written by Anders Thomas Jensen
Ulrich Thomsen as Adam Pedersen
Mads Mikkelsen as Ivan
Nicolas Bro as Gunnar
Paprika Steen as Sarah Svendesen
Ali Kazim as Khalid
Ole Thestrup as Dr. Kolberg
94 Minutes(Rated R for language and violence)
The official entry from Denmark for the Academy Awards, "Adam's Apples" in a dark comedy in every sense of the word-brutal, harsh, witty, but sadly not perfect. In fact after the brilliant opening fifty minutes or so, I was practically in tears when the final forty did not work with the promise of the start. It was almost as if director/writer Anders Thomas Jensen ran out of ideas and drifted into whatever he could think of, as the screenplay looses its focus and puts the characters in situations and events that seem as if they came out of a hat. And this is the reason why I cannot fully recommend "Adam's Apples," unless perhaps you walk out the second you see the return of a female character(and it shouldn't be hard to spot considering all of the main characters are men.) Sure the story you began wouldn't have a conclusion, but at least it wouldn't be an unsatisfying one.
"Adam's Apples" starts off with Adam Pedersen getting off a bus and looking right at a church. It is clear that Adam has had quite a past-he is shaved bald and on the shoulder of the arm he carries his suitcase with there is a tattoo of a swastika. Yes, Adam is a Neo-Nazi who has been released from jail and placed under the guardianship of Ivan, the vicar at a church that takes in people like him. Ivan is horrified to see that Adam's profile contains the word EVIL and vows to help him reform. Ivan asks Adam what his goal is, and Adam replies that he wants to bake a large pie for everyone in the church with the apples in the apple tree in the front. Ivan hands the tree over to Adam, who really does care about tending to it. Adam meets a colorful array of characters-including the Pakistan Khalid who doesn't speak much Danish, and Gunnar the overweight sex offender who tries to rob Adam before being caught and beat up. And then there is Ivan himself who seems to have one hell of a past. It seems that Ivan's mother was killed during childbirth, that his father raped him and his sister, and that his son was born handicapped even though he claims that he is fine. The wheelchair and paralysis speak otherwise. Adam tries to get to the bottom of Ivan's strange behavior-is Ivan evil, crazy, or just a man with a tragic past? And how come the Bible keeps falling open to the start of the Book of Job? And what is with the birds in the apple tree?
There are some very funny sequences placed throughout "Adam's Apples." One of them that comes to mind is a segment involving birds in the apple tree, and their ways to try and get rid of them. When Adam suggests that he shoots them out, Khalid ends up taking out a gun from his jacket and kills them all with perfect aim. Ivan could also be one of the best characters I've seen in a while, and his belief that everyone is good is both hilarious and frustrating. When during the incident above Khalid accidentally(or was it on purpose) kills Gunar's cat, Ivan responds "The cat was old, and just happened to fall down during the shootout." Of course it doesn't take a genius to see the large blood patch in the center of its body. It is moments and characters like this that make for great dark comedy, but towards the end the script completely switches gears. In the start it was fun to watch these four character collide. Seeing them talk outside had the excitement of what they would say or do next. For the first time in a while I didn't mind that there wasn't a female in sight, and then one had to reappear. No, there isn't a tacky love story between Adam and the girl(the drunk Sarah), but this seems to be the borderline between greatness and "kinda good." There is a story involving Khalid and his addiction to robbing gas stations, a shootout, and then something about other Nazi's getting involved-all leading up top a great final scene. This script bounces so much I don't know if I should call it brilliant or amateur. But then again, at this point in my life it isn't like I could do better. There is terrific cinematography, and the lack of any sunshine or blue skies perfectly reflect what is happening on the screen. There is also that dark tint that I can't describe that I just love-if you want an idea of what I mean check out the scene in the grocery store near to the end.
"Adam's Apples" does have well made dark comedy, and the performance by Mads Mikkelsen(Ivan) is pitch perfect. It is funny, has some kind of a message, and is somewhat thought provoking, but in the end it just slips under the line of being worthwhile. It is worth a video rental at some time, or a viewing on television. It has its moments, but in the grand scheme of things it isn't anything incredible.