Sunday, November 06, 2011

Cape Fear (1991)

Category: News

Cape Fear Watching Cape Fear (1991), you may well wonder how many times Robert De Niro has played the obsessed avenger. Taxi Driver did petrify his image as the guy who can’t get his mind off sticking or shooting somebody, but he seems to have got into mastering these roles. Cape Fear is one, and was followed by Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1994; De Niro plays the monster) and The Fan (1996). Perhaps there are more (that I haven’t watched). In Cape Fear, he does it as good (or bad, in ethical contexts of characters) as in the rest—perhaps better (or worse, for that moralistic matter).

Here, De Niro takes the role of a convicted rapist who, after serving a 14-year sentence, returns to terrorize his lawyer (Nick Nolte) and his family—wife (Jessica Lange) and teenage daughter (Juliette Lewis)—for the reason that his lawyer did not defend him well, in fact let him be sent to jail by withholding a document that could save him from 14 years in prison. Nolte finds himself helpless before his stalker, who has done some frustratingly perfect homework on how to kick ass without leaving your shoe polish there. The story allows building up tension and maintaining psychological thrill. Performances are, as the cast names indicate, impressive. De Niro specifically dominates the drama with his overpowering character and its presentation. There is a cameo from Gregory Peck and one from Robert Mitchum.

Yet, the weaknesses of the film, as you watch on, are so obvious; they peek out of De Niro’s screen domination. First, the script makes too much of De Niro’s character’s harassing side; you don’t get to see how actually is his terror afflicting the lives of his lawyer and his family. Details of how he breaks into places are ignored as is showing De Niro’s personal angst in privacy (you don’t see him anywhere alone or anything about his whereabouts), causing the slackness in the plot and character depth, and making convenience precede credibility. The most unbearable part comes at the end, when you actually would expect a climax. Here, the story is stretched to include a trip on a boat where the mock-trial of Nolte’s character onboard is unbearably overdone and pathetic.

Cape Fear is a remake of the original 1962 film by the same name. Personally, it was a disappointment to watch it, though it did hold my interest for over half of its length. Aside from Robert De Niro’s powerful role-playing, as well as the rest of the cast, I would recommend rather skipping it for something with good attention to detail and a better ending.