Mads Mikkelsen has excessively high cheekbones on very long, flat facial planes, making him the kind of handsome actor suited for morally untrustworthy roles. Hence his casting as a charismatic antihero in the violent Pusher series (sort of Denmark's big-screen Sopranos) and as the villain who inflicts improbably impermanent damage to chairbound James Bond's weenus in 2006's Casino Royale. Mikkelsen has been voted his country's sexiest man, or something similar, two years running, and he was wonderful as a prim apostle of third-world charity atoning for an asshole past in Suzanne Bier's After the Wedding (2006). Perhaps because he projects a certain tense ambivalence, saintliness also works for him it's something we have a hard time believing in now, so the unlikelier the casting, the better.
After the Wedding and many other excellent Danish films in recent years were written by Anders Thomas Jensen, who also directed Adam's Apples. It has Mikkelsen as Ivan, the vicar of a country church whose congregation barely extends beyond the criminals he takes in for their community-service sentences. The latest to arrive is Adam (Ulrich Thomsen, who's also played a Bond villain), a paunchy, shaved-head neo-Nazi who prefers to communicate by mute snarl or fist. Adam's paperwork actually calls him evil. Ivan chirps, "There are no evil people!" His glass is forever half full, suffused with God's forgiveness. He is the biggest fool Adam has ever suffered, and no amount of verbal or even violent physical abuse seems to shake his belief that God is on his side.
Because so many outrageously terrible things happen in it, Adam's Apples has been called a black comedy. Fair enough. It's often very funny, with the script's continually surprising developments served up in a perfect deadpan by Anders's direction, the classically handsome CinemaScope compositions, and a keening string score. But where it ends up is so far from cynicism that I pray no Hollywood remake arrives to desecrate its memory. Anders has worked more than once with most of his cast and crew. They should never be allowed to stop: James Bond production schedules should have to fucking wait until each Anders project is done. If Adam's Apples isn't the best movie I see in 2007, whatever movie is will be really, really, really good.
Opens Fri/11 in Bay Area theaters
See Movie Clock at www.adamsaebler.dk"
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