Review: 'Adam’s Apples' sours with simplicity

With its skinhead protagonist and its melding of biblical parable and rude farce, the black comedy “Adam’s Apples” achieves something of a miracle by going down smoothly and generally palatably. But its chancy material fares just so-so overall. As good takes on evil under dark Danish skies, the film isn’t profound enough to succeed as a fable or funny enough to constitute the wicked satire that it purports to be.

The movie comes from the naughtier lobes of Anders Thomas Jensen, the versatile writer-director whose credits include the melodrama “After the Wedding” (which he scripted), the cannibalism comedy “The Green Butchers” (which he wrote and directed) and some Dogme fare.

Adam (Ulrich Thomsen), a scowling neo-Nazi on parole, arrives at a rustic church to perform his community service and quickly clashes withIvan (Mads Mikkelsen), the deludedly rosy vicar. For a goal, Ivan assigns Adam to bake an apple cake and to watch over the church’s apple tree. As the tree, as if affected by Adam’s negativity, experiences plague-like attacks of crows, worms and lightning, Adam unleashes his vile spirit on Ivan as well and tries to break Ivan’s faith.

Ivan, meanwhile, treats Adam as a misguided good seed. Cataclysmic things happen on Adam’s road to redemption.

The film contains enough freshness in its particulars, and boldness in Jenkins’ execution, to surprise you early on. The conclusion, with its strain of humanism and absence of mush, satisfies. In between, things get rocky, however.

While his biblical symbolism indicates a desire to say something serious about virtue and vice, Jenkins undermines such aims by foremost delivering surface-level comic miscellany. Some is funny: an outrageous cure for a brain tumor; the too-sunny Ivan’s cheeriness after Adam pummels him. Some isn’t.

The fizzle stems largely from the sick behavior of Adam and two other members of Ivan’s bad-apple flock (Ali Kazim, Nicolas Bro). Rape and animal cruelty are put forth for our amusement, with sorry results.

Lifting the movie over the middling mark are Thomsen and Mikkelsen (the latter, having cried blood in “Casino Royale,” now bleeds from his ear). These top Danish actors give their characters shades that translate into a dignity eclipsing their patheticness.

Adam’s Apples **½

Starring Ulrich Thomsen, Mads Mikkelsen, Nicolas Bro, Ali Kazim

Written and directed by Anders Thomas Jensen

Rated R

In Danish with English subtitles

Running time: 1 hour, 29 minutes

Screening: At the Lumiere

artsentertainmentOther Arts

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Struggling Chinatown restaurants get help moving business outdoors

A total of $25,000 will be distributed to assist with costs of Shared Spaces program

Nomination delays, vacancies impair SFMTA board’s ability to vote

Supervisors to consider mayor’s nominees on Aug. 10

District 7 race leads supervisor contests in campaign contributions

The race to replace outgoing Board of Supervisors President Norman Yee has… Continue reading

Jones Street getting more pedestrian space after months of community pressure

Pedestrians on Jones Street will have more room to walk as early… Continue reading

Pandemic exacerbates food insecurity for San Franciscans in need

Mayor Breed proposes $45.7 million for meal programs under two-year budget

Most Read