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 Singapore 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 longstanding 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’s 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.
Written and directed by Boo Junfeng
Opens March 3, Village East Cinema
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on March 1, 2017