Film review: 'Evil' is a chilling look at violence

Published: Friday, March 31 2006 12:00 a.m. MST

EVIL — *** — Andreas Wilson, Henrik Lundstrom, Gustaf Skarsgard; with English subtitles (some Scandinavian dialects); not rated, probable R (violence, profanity, gore, vulgarity, ethnic slurs, torture, brief sex).

Periodic bursts of savage, brutal violence and explorations of whether violent impulses are inherent in mankind make "Evil" kin to both "A History of Violence" and "Fight Club."

It's not quite as effective as either of those films, and its stuffy, private-school scenes nearly turn the whole thing into "The Dead Pugilist's Society," but this Swedish import does have its chilling moments.

"Evil" explores the violent tendencies of Erik Ponti (Andreas Wilson), a teen whose school bullying has been prompted by the regular beatings he receives at home from his cruel stepfather (Johan Rabaeus).

So Erik is shipped off to a private boarding school, where he's determined to make the best of it. He makes a friend of bookish Pierre Tanguy (Henrik Lundstrom), but the school's rules and regulations are stringent, and enforcement — in the form of hazing and corporal punishment — is meted out by senior students, led by the smug Otto Silverhielm (Gustaf Skarsgard).

Swedish television veteran Mikael Hafstrom adapted Jan Guillou's autobiographical novel, which was based on his own horrific, private-school experiences. Unfortunately, for the film's ending, Hafstrom and his fellow screenwriters take the easiest route to tie things up, which is a little disappointing.

Hafstrom does get some strong performances from his cast, especially Wilson, who's already become a star in his homeland. That the character is likable, despite some of his more reprehensible actions, is largely due to his efforts.

"Evil" is not rated but would probably receive an R for strong scenes of brutality and violence (fisticuffs, beatings and various forms of hazing), some strong profanity, some gore, a few crude references and some toilet humor (including a nauseating prank), use of ethnic slurs, a brief scene of torture and some brief sexual contact. Running time: 113 minutes.


E-mail: jeff@desnews.com