starring Ulrich Thomsen, Mads Mikkelsen, Nikolaj Lie Kaas, Nicolas Bro
written and directed by Anders Thomas Jensen
by Alex Jackson Adam's Apples begins with a Danish skinhead (Ulrich Thomsen) getting off a bus at a halfway house out in the country and keying the vehicle as it drives away, immediately telling us that this isn't going to be a movie that seriously considers the economic origins and social ramifications of the Danish white-supremacist movement. The skinhead, whose name is Adam, meets the other inhabitants of the halfway house, which include an Arabic stickup-man (who speaks in adorably broken Danish and only robs stores he has a political beef with) and an obese, bearded, childlike sex offender just so the film can unfairly invite comparisons to Samuel Fuller's Shock Corridor. The halfway house is run by Ivan (Mads Mikkelsen), a widowed minister who may very well be crazier than his flock! He's kind of out of it, refusing to believe that his brain-damaged son isn't able to walk or talk and always firmly turning the other cheek whenever Adam confronts him with the obvious or beats him up in frustration. Ivan requires Adam to think up a short-term goal and follow through on it. Adam rebelliously wisecracks that he would like to bake an apple pie; Ivan, the good-natured idiot, assigns Adam to take care of the church's lone apple tree. Adam's Apples is a combination of the "Loveable Crazies" and "The Reformation of Grumpy Bear" sub-genres of pandering middlebrow pap. To tell you the truth, I'm not automatically opposed to these kinds of movies, insomuch as I count One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and Rain Man among my all-time favourites. But what makes those films special is that they're understated, and so our emotional response to them is an honest one. Adam's Apples is glib: the apple tree symbolizes Adam's heart and it's afflicted by crows, maggots, and, after a particularly cruel episode with Ivan, a bolt of lightning. (This is all so obvious that even the characters pick up on it.) I'm puzzled about how the violence is ultra-graphic yet leaves little lasting damage (onscreen or off), while the snickering deus ex machina ending must be seen to be believed. The whole film--skinheads, bloody beatings, unhappy endings, the casual attitude towards the Holocaust, rape, and racism--is just so dishonest: writer-director Anders Thomas Jensen (The Green Butchers) wants to shock you but then pull back and say, "Just kidding." Adam's Apples is patented crowd-pleasing pap: neutered, cowardly, and sure to be a big hit among grandmas and pseudo-punk teenagers alike.