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Apt Pupil

movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Apt Pupil

Starring: Ian Mckellen, Brad Renfro
Director: Bryan Singer
Rated: R
RunTime: 100 Minutes
Release Date: October 1998
Genres: Suspense, Thriller

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Review by Susan Granger
2½ stars out of 4

Most screen adaptations of Stephen King novellas fall into the macabre slasher/horror genre, but this evolves into a diabolically chilling and profoundly disturbing psychological thriller. Adapted by first-time screenwriter Brandon Boyce and directed by Bryan Singer, the bizarre story begins in 1984 with a 16 year-old high-school senior (Brad Renfo) who becomes obsessed with the Holocaust in history class, spending hours in the library, immersing himself in documents and photographs. Then, one day, he spots an elderly man (Ian McKellen) on a bus and recognizes his face from his research. After methodically acquiring fingerprints and other evidence, he accosts the accused former SS officer with his conclusions and, over the next few months, blackmails the mass murderer into graphically reciting the grisly, gruesome, gory details of his past atrocities in return for preserving his anonymity. "Boy, be careful," the old man warns. "You play with fire." And, true to his word, the crafty ex-Gestapo officer engages in his own duplicity as an insidious, deadly cat-and-mouse game evolves. As in his previous film, "The Usual Suspects," Singer never reveals too much about his characters, so you're not sure exactly what motivates the perverse teenager as the tension mounts. "It's about a boy who became a very good student but not in the way his teachers and mother envisioned," concludes the Nazi war criminal. Both Renfro and McKellen deliver impeccable performances, but exploiting the Holocaust-related theme may be offensive to some. And, since both leading characters are ultimately despicable, do you really want to spend two hours with them? On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Apt Pupil" is a morbid, sinister 6. If you don't believe in the existence of evil, you have a lot to learn.

Copyright 2000 Susan Granger

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