NEW YORK -- From its title to its plot line and even to the names of its characters, "Adam's Apples" displays an obviousness that robs this would-be darkly comical parable of any effectiveness.
This effort from acclaimed Danish filmmaker Anders Thomas Jensen stars Mads Mikkelsen, newly prominent thanks to his roles as James Bond's nemesis in "Casino Royale" and in the Oscar-nominated "After the Wedding," but is unlikely to receive much attention on these shores.
The title character, played by Ulrich Thomsen, is a neo-Nazi newly released from prison who has been placed in the care of Ivan (Mikkelsen) a relentlessly upbeat vicar who leads a small community church. Eager to rehabilitate his charge, Ivan asks Adam to choose a goal for himself. When the hardened criminal facetiously replies that he would like to bake an apple pie, Ivan puts him in charge of the church's apple tree.
The resulting damage to the tree that ensues, from being ravaged by worms and maggots and crows to getting struck by lightning, is symbolic evidence of Adam's dark soul. Soon he and Ivan are engaged in a spiritual and at times physical conflict that reveals that the Job-like pastor has a few dark secrets of his own.
Among the unsavory supporting characters in the tale are an Arab immigrant (Ali Kazim) who likes to express his political outrage by robbing gas stations, and an overweight kleptomaniac (Nicolas Bro) with a fondness for sexually assaulting women.
While the two lead performers embody their symbolic characters with intensity and charisma, their efforts are undercut by a screenplay that attempts to blend outrageous black humor with biblical allegory in a highly distasteful and ultimately unsuccessful fashion.