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A boy blackmails his neighbour after suspecting him to be a Nazi war criminal.

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(novel), (screenplay)
6 wins & 6 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
...
...
Joey
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Sociology Teacher
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Nightmare Victim
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Monica Bowden
...
Richard Bowden
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Victor Bowden
Marjorie Lovett ...
Agnes Bowden
David Cooley ...
Gym Teacher
Blake Anthony Tibbetts ...
Teammate
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Becky Trask
Katherine Malone ...
Student
Grace Sinden ...
Secretary
...
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Storyline

Neighborhood boy Todd Bowden (Renfro) discovers that an old man living on his block named Arthur Denker (Mackellan) is Nazi war criminal. Bowden confronts Denker and offers him a deal: Bowden will not go to the authorities if Denker tells him stories of the concentration camps in WWII. Denker agrees and Bowden starts visiting him regularly. The more stories Bowden hears, the more it affects his personality. Written by Casey Ward <ward@citizen.infi.net>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

If you don't believe in the existence of evil, you've got a lot to learn.


Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for scenes of strong violence, language and brief sexuality | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Details

Country:

|

Language:

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Release Date:

23 October 1998 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

El aprendiz  »

Filming Locations:

 »

Box Office

Budget:

$14,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$3,583,151 (USA) (23 October 1998)

Gross:

$8,838,938 (USA) (1 January 1999)
 »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(8 channels)|

Color:

(Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Anthony Hopkins turned the main part down. See more »

Goofs

Some question Dussander's description of carbon monoxide gas being introduced to gas chambers through pipes, pointing out that Nazi extermination camps used Zyklon B pellets dropped through openings in the roofs of the chambers, which then released prussic acid (hydrogen cyanide) gas. While the extermination camps, Auschwitz I, Auschwitz II-Birkenau, Majdanek and KZ camp Sachsenhausen and Dacau did use the Zyklon B method, most of the other major extermination camps (Belzec, Sobibor, and Treblinka II) and KZ camps used large gas or diesel engines to produce carbon monoxide exhaust, which was then routed to the gas chambers through pipes. This was learned from the experiences of the T-4 project. (The Chelmno camp had no gas chambers, it instead used gas vans, in which the vans' own carbon monoxide exhaust was routed to the rebuild and airtight cargo bay of the vans, which held the victims.) See more »

Quotes

[last lines]
Edward French: You can't do this, Todd.
Todd Bowden: You have no idea what I can do.
See more »

Connections

Referenced in An Interview with John Ottman (2002) See more »

Soundtracks

Das Ist Berlin
Music by Leo Leux & Matthias Perl (as Matthias Perl)
Lyrics by Hans Hannes & Bruno Balz
Performed by Liane Augustin (as Liane) & The Boheme Bar Trio
Courtesy of Omega Record Group, Inc.
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User Reviews

Flawed but has great direction and good performances in an uneasy story
13 August 2002 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

Young high school student Todd Bowden uncovers that an old man in his neighbourhood is really Nazi war criminal Kurt Dussander under the name of Arthur Denker. Bowden offers not to turn Dussander in if he agrees to tell him what it was like to carry out the crimes he did during the war. However the relationship changes both Dussander and Bowden, bringing evil to the surface in both of them.

Having read the short story prior to the film being made I knew that this was going to be a difficult subject to bring to the screen. The film does a good job but makes many changes that will disappoint those who know the book. Treating the film as a separate entity it isn't bad but it happens too quickly and doesn't go deep enough. The plot is interesting but the depth Todd sinks to isn't convincing as half of it is forced on him and the other half he seems to embrace it. Dussander himself is well crafted but his descent into evil doesn't go far enough to be truly captivating. The ending is different from the book but I'm in two minds if it works better or not.

Brad Renfro is good but I can't help but compare him to the character in the book and see his short fallings. However he does manage to keep his changes semi-realistic without descending into being OTT or turning into a cartoon character. McKellen is perfect in the lead role and he manages to be larger than life. An actor of Koteas shouldn't have done such a minor role but Schwimmer gives a good performance that isn't his usual `Ross' thing again.

It's hard not to compare this to the book and beside that it pales slightly. As a film in it's own right it's OK but it doesn't quite convince and has an uneasy tone to it. Singer was always going to have a tough time following the amazing Suspects, but here he does pretty well. The direction is great and features plenty of great shots throughout the film.

Overall it is a flawed film because it doesn't go as far as it should nor does it manage to totally sell the characters to us. However it's worth a watch for great direction by Singer and a good lead by McKellen.


45 of 49 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

Message Boards

Recent Posts
A terrible film. jeremy3
For all the people that worry a real cat was harmed in this film... krasnyoktyabr
How much like the book? Gorgeous_Mistake
Is this just a short story or is a novel? jesy-1
Would Todd have gone nuts if he hadn't met Kurt Dussander? Frisky_Kitty2025
I couldn't finish watching it. storey_12
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