Apt Pupil

“Boy, be careful. You play with fire.”

Power struggles and selfish acts uncover the activities of a very unique man in this superbly directed film as the audience gets enveloped into a shady world of well-developed characters.

David Schwimmer has a credible performance as Edward French, but Todd Bowden (a 14-year-old Brad Renfro) and Kurt Dussander (Ian McKellan) definitely own the audience in this film. Joshua Jackson also stars as Joey while Ann Dowd and Bruce Davison play Todd’s parents Monica and Richard.

These characters struggle with evil among them as their decisions drive the action in Brandon Boyce’s screenplay. This fascination with evil and villainy can trigger the worst within anyone as this film quickly turns into a cautionary tale.

McKellan’s most memorable moment is when Kurt displays his past military movements to Todd, but Kurt never gets enough character development to go deeper than an echo of the past who reflects an evil empire. Kurt’s reveals are constrained by his need to be out of the public eye to hide his secret past yet his actions in the private setting of his home are free of restriction and feed into Todd’s curious and obsessive interest in his past.

Renfro impresses as Todd and shows his true color with a key decision near the film’s end. Todd’s tactics are unfortunately repeated as he seeks control and power instead of uneasiness, victimization, and lack of control when key information is revealed.

This 111-minute crime drama, based on a Stephen King novella first published in King’s 1982 collection Different Seasons, holds up, but didn’t make much at the box office mostly because the mainstream wanted something like the Stephen King movies of the past.  I can remember seeing groups of teenagers in the theater banking on the typical Stephen King thriller genre. Apt Pupil is a more artful visual work for sophisticated viewers that has a few thrills.

Apt Pupil is directed by Bryan Singer (Bohemian Rhapsody). His wide shots let the actors do their work. His prolonged camera shots also allow the actors to perform some incredibly poignant scenes, mostly in interior shots. Recommended with reservations (** out of four stars) and rated R for scenes of strong violence, language, and brief sexuality

Copyright © Michael Siebenaler

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