Take a Drink: for symbolism
Take a Drink: whenever Renfro says something sociopathic
Take a Drink: for described atrocities
Take a Drink: for basketball
Take a Drink: for swastikas
Take a Drink: whenever McKellan is spryer than an 80 year old
Do a Shot: for animal cruelty
Do a Shot: for shower scenes
By: Henry J. Fromage (Five Beers) –
Bryan Singer roared back to the top of the box office this year with his winning formula of troubled, nubile young men, Ian McKellan + Nazis, and senseless murder. Ah, and superheroes, I guess.
I mean, some people dig them, right?
His first go-round with that combo (minus the superheroes, but plus Stephen King, so pretty much the same) was Apt Pupil, which wasn’t so successful. In it a young man (Brad Renfro) discovers there’s an elderly Nazi war criminal (Ian McKellan) living in his small town, and blackmails him into sharing the sordid details of his deeds with him. A battle of wills and wits ensues.
Fresh off The Usual Suspects, it’s little doubt that Singer was full of filmmaking ideas, and he coupled with DP Thomas Sigel and editor/composer John Ottman create a technically adept film, full of magic hour and filter-happy cinematography and inventive and nerve-racking edits with perfectly-timed music cues. The acting is also generally good, with McKellan as great as always as this 85 year old… wait, he was 59 when this film was shot? He’s like a reverse Highlander- elderly, British, and full of gravitas for eternity.
He was a strange child.
Brad Renfro’s performance leaves me torn, but its one-note nature might be the fault of script and direction as much as his and he certainly radiates creepiness like a boss. Also- David Schwimmer’s mustache.
Isn’t it just the best thing you’ve ever seen?
Then again, Renfro only has one expression on his face throughout the film. Again, maybe not his fault, but it’s so full of punch-me snootiness that it actually made me root for a Nazi. Shit.
Apt Pupil is more on the nose than Sarah Jessica’s witch wart (note to self, verify assumption she has a witch wart). The film begins with a teacher erasing a blackboard with a pie chart of the Holocaust’s victims. The camera zooms in on the last thing he erases- the word “Jews”. Later, McKellan tries to put a cat in the oven. Yeah…
In interviews, Singer and King (whose story this is based off of) seem to think Apt Pupil is about the infectiousness of evil and a teacher/pupil metaphor with psychopathy as the syllabus, but from minute one Renfro’s arguably a bigger sociopath than even the former concentration camp superintendent, so… so much for that.
Since there’s no growth, positive or negative, in the film, Apt Pupil becomes an exercise in sadism. It’s hard to care who prevails, but since the film is structured like a conventional protagonist vs. antagonist flick, apparently we’re supposed to. Personally, I kept hoping the cat would come back and emasculate them both.
Uggh. The more I think about this undercooked parable of evil, the dumber I find it. Looks good, though.