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Critics' Pick

Apprentice (NR)

Drama 96 min. March 3, 2017
By Nick Schager
The past is a noose around the neck of both death-row inmates and those who pull the hangman's lever in Apprentice, Boo Junfeng's mysterious and nuanced prison drama. In a Malaysian prison where capital punishment is carried out at the end of a long rope, former soldier–turned–correctional officer Aiman (compelling newcomer Firdaus Rahman) cozies up to Sergeant Rahim (Wan Hanafi Su), the facility's long-standing executioner. Through oblique, highly charged conversations between Aiman and his sister Suhaila (Masutra Ahmad) -- who lives with Aiman but longs to escape her station via an Australian boyfriend -- we learn that their father met his maker courtesy of Rahim. However, the details behind their paterfamilias' heinous crime, and the specific reason Aiman now wants to become the apprentice to the man who ended his dad's life, remain for long stretches tantalizingly unclear.

Drenched in darkness and routinely visualizing its characters behind bars and alone in the frame, Apprentice teases a climax of bloody revenge, only to take a far more somber, complex turn. In a finale rife with twisted feelings of resentment, fury and self-loathing, the film transforms into a grave meditation on the corrosive shadow cast by the decisions, and crimes, of yesterday.
Boo Junfeng Fir Rahman, Wan Hanafi Su, Mastura Ahmad, Boon Pin Koh, Nickson Cheng, Crispian Chan, Gerald Chew Boo Junfeng Raymond Phathanavirangoon, Fran Borgia, Tan Fong Cheng Film Movement

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