[Bea’s Reviews] Cape Fear [1991]


Dir.: Martin Scorsese

Starring: Nick Nolte, Jessica Lange, Robert De Niro, Juliette Lewis and Illeana Douglas

Martin Scorsese’s remake of J. Lee Thompson’s seminal 1962 thriller is a fine example of a remake which does not tread on the toes of the original, but is content to walk in firm stride alongside it, only taking a few steps ahead in areas where Thompson’s simply could not. Unbound by the constraints of 1960s censorship, Cape Fear 1991 is able to amplify the words, themes and actions which were only whispered from the lips of it’s predecessor and the result is thrilling, tense and devastating in equal measure. The tension is paramount, the performances are on point and the consistent atmosphere of the film, one of fear, is continuously maintained. While the finale may burgeon on the eye-rolling side of ridiculous with its grandiosity, it is earned thanks to the attention Scorsese pays to this tale of maximum retribution and casualty.

Robert De Niro’s rendition of Max Cady is a virus given form of man, tattooed, hulking and verbose and to see him come to blows with the mild-looking, burnt-out Nick Nolte’s prosecutor Sam Bowden (well okay, the latter descriptor isn’t exclusive to the character if you know what I mean) the audience quickly understands just how far Cady is willing to go to avenge the 14 years in the slammer he lost thanks to Bowden. Not merely content is Cady to kill the man, but to destroy his very foundation while taking his wife and child with him, that is the debt paid in full. Anything else would be too merciful.

Cape Fear is a tale of revenge and it shows you just how destructive this violence-begets-violence base drive can be without diverging into glorifying the escalation. While the immediate resolution can be construed as traditional Hollywood fare, it does not take too deep a thought to realise that while the Bowdens are together in the end, are they whole? This is a Marty Movie (TM), what do you think?


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