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Monday, April 3, 2006 - Page updated at 10:45 AM


Information in this article, originally published March 31, 2006, was corrected April 3, 2006. A previous version of this article indicated the movie "Evil" would open Friday, March 31, at the Harvard Exit. The opening has been postponed to a later date.

Movie Review

"Evil": A violent film about the evils of violence

Special to The Seattle Times

From its blunt title to its realistic scenes of youthful brutality, "Evil" won't win any awards for subtlety. It didn't win the Oscar either, although it was Sweden's foreign-film nominee at the 2004 Academy Awards. It's one of those well-made, superficially satisfying movies that play to passion more than intellect, indulging the violence it purports to abhor.

That's not automatically a bad thing. Movies like "Evil" entertain us by serving sweet revenge on a platter, and director Mikael Håfström manipulates emotions more intelligently than most, with sharp direction and a "hero" who's interestingly unpredictable.

Movie review 2.5 stars

"Evil," with Andreas Wilson, Henrik Lundström, Gustaf Skarsgård. Directed by Mikael Håfström, from a screenplay by Håfström and Hans Gunnarsson, based on a novel by Jan Guillou. 113 minutes. Not rated; for mature audiences (contains violence, language). In Swedish with English subtitles.

He's Erik (Andreas Wilson), a 16-year-old who's been expelled from his Stockholm high school for routinely beating classmates to a pulp. His timid mother does nothing when Erik is subjected to regular lashings by his brutish stepfather (no wonder the kid's got a chip on his shoulder). Erik sincerely tries to shed his "evil" reputation while enrolled at Stjärnsberg Boarding School, a remote haven for snobby aristocrats and spoiled rich kids. There, violent hazing of underclassmen has become an institutionalized ritual.

Upperclassman Otto Silverheilm (Gustaf Skarsgård), a pedigreed autocrat, is outraged when Erik resists the tradition of "fraternal upbringing" intended to prepare graduates for the cruelties of adulthood. Erik's defiant pacifism is pushed to the limit when his mild-mannered roommate and best friend, Pierre (Henrik Lundström), is targeted for the latest round of abuse.

Wilson is a bona-fide star whose brooding intensity makes him perfect for his role. But apart from building palpable tension as Erik outwits or simply defeats his tormentors, "Evil" offers precious little insight regarding the origins and consequences of the violence it depicts at crowd-pleasing intervals.

It's effective in broad strokes (making it ripe for an American remake), but trades the primeval impact of "Straw Dogs" for an uplifting coda that's nobly intended but a bit too tidy to be entirely convincing.

Jeff Shannon:

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company




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