Picks and Pans Review: Max

updated 01/13/2003 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 01/13/2003 AT 01:00 AM EST

John Cusack, Noah Taylor

Rarely has a writer-director made a debut film as audacious as Menno Meyjes's Max. This assured, provocative drama chronicles the fictional friendship between two German World War I veterans in Munich in 1918: Max Rothman (Cusack), a Jewish art dealer, tries to help Adolf Hitler (Taylor), a struggling artist. Yes, that Hitler. Cusack is engaging as a man bitter about the past but hopeful for the future. Taylor, playing Hitler with the furtiveness and fury of an underfed rodent, is mesmerizing. (R)

BOTTOM LINE: Worth seeking out

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