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Cape Fear (Arrow Recommends)

Cape Fear (Arrow Recommends)
04.14.2018by: The Arrow
9 10


"Arrow Recommends is a column that has my sorry ass advise older movies to your royal asses. I will be flexible in terms of genres i.e. I will cover whatever the bleep I want. For now, it will be the way to keep my voice on the site."

PLOT: A savage rapist (Robert DeNiro) gets out of jail after serving 14 years. Once free he only has one thing on the fritz: To get even with the attorney (Nick Nolte) who defended him and lost his case. And what best way to get tit for tat on someone then going after their family. 

"It's not necessary to lay a foul tongue on me my friend. I could get upset. Things could get out of hand. Then in self defense, I could do something to you that you would not like. " – Cady

LOWDOWN: CAPE FEAR (GET THE BLU RAY HERE) is a remake of the 1962 film of the same name, which was itself an adaptation of the 1957 novel The Executioners by John D. MacDonald. Believe it or not Steven Spielberg was initially gonna direct this bad boy but he bailed out finding the script too violent. So Martin Scorsese took over the project and personally I’m happy that he did cause he delivered one hell of a juggernaut thriller that endearingly mixed modem aesthetics with an old school Hitchcock vibe (right down to the opening credits being designed by Hitchcock collaborator Saul Bass). The result was an intense and visually arresting sit down!

CAPE FEAR wasted no time in grabbing me by the cashews and it didn’t let go of them till the crazy end. Running a little bit over two hours, I honestly never felt any lag. It came off like an hour and a half ride to me and I attribute that to the thrilling chain of events, the manic pace and the brilliant performances on hand. Content wise, CAPE FEAR was fairly mainstream within the thriller subgenre but it’s how it was executed that made it stand out. For starters we had quite the memorable psycho to kill time with in Max Cady. Tackled by a tatted and pumped up up Robert De Niro (who went down to 3% body fat for the role) Cady left a mark with his southern drawl and charismatic yet incredibly menacing demeanor. I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen every time he popped up. Talk about a showstopper! Although the entire cast was up to snuff (more on them later) this was DeNiro’s show and he owned it like the acting MEGA BEAST that he is. Wow.

Moreover, as nade-dropped before, the visual style here was fairly unique. Think a mix of old school and new school. Lots of quick cuts, swift zoom-ins, zany angles – very kinetic with all kinds of surreal elements tossed in there for good measure. Blood red skies, fades to yellow or red, an eclectic color palette, swift traveling clouds in the sky… the works! We even got Hitchcock regular Bernard Herrmann's operatic score from the original film (which was reworked by Elmer Bernstein) to act as the cherry on top. It was as if  the audio/visual style yelled at me: "There's more than the obvious going on here a-hole!". And my take on it was that Scorsese, who  much like myself  has a fascination with Christian theology, was echoing a quasi Biblical tale here with his epic approach to the material.

For example; De Niro's countless tattoos had designs or quotes lifted from the King James Bible. The last act made me think of  Noah's Arc. Or Max Cady's retribution being inspired by a story in the Bible called The Book of Job. None of this was in the 1962 film BTW. I may be talking out of my ass over here but Cape Fear played out as a twisted version of the Book of Job with Nolte’s character being Job and DeNiro being God’s instrument. This line from the flick hinted at that: "I'm Virgil and I'm guiding you through the gates of Hell. We are now in the Ninth Circle, the Circle of Traitors. Traitors to country! Traitors to fellow man! Traitors to GOD!"  In my useless opinion; Cady was an act of God that Nolte's character Sam Bowden and his (dysfunctional) family had to overcome to come out on the other side better people and a stronger unit. But hey like I said – I may be talking out of my ass. I do that a lot! So many waysto read the subtext.

Now with DeNiro being so damn strong, the rest of the cast needed to measure up in the name of not being drowned out and thankfully Scorsese cast smartly. Nick Nolte was on the ball (and so damn thin) as the jittery and shady husband with all kinds of skeletons in his closet, Jessica Lange lent able support as the miserable wife with trust issues while Juliette Lewis was pretty much the only one that came close to stealing scenes from DeNiro with her innocent, precocious and flirtatious ways. She definitely held her own! No wonder she was nominated for best supporting actress at the Oscars. DeNiro was also nominated for best actor by the way – neither won. The great Joe Don Baker and the always-reliable Illeana Douglas kicked derriere too with their supporting roles. Baker was cool as f*ck while Douglas was captivating and mucho affable. Love her laugh and smile.

Topple on top of that a handful of frightening attacks/gore bits (when Cady has a violent outburst - watch out), cool cameos by actors from the original film (Gregory Peck, Robert Mitchum, and Martin Balsam), one deviant and scene sexually charged (yes Big Bad Wolf bit) that had me squirming in my seat like a worm at the end of a butcher knife, a slew of memorable lines and razor dialogue all around and you get a superior thriller, brought to the next level by the immense talent in front and behind the camera.

Any qualms to spew? None actually. So why am I giving it a 9 on 10 instead of a 10 on 10? Cause it felt like an 9 on 10 when I was done with it. Something was obviously missing for me to go higher – but I won’t bullshit ya, I’m not sure what that is. So it’s a fucking 9 on 10. It just goes that way sometimes. If you’ve never seen the 1991 CAPE FEAR I strongly suggest you give it a whirl and witness how a genius auteur filmmaker like Martin Scorsese handles a film with mainstream tendencies. If you’ve already tapped it – tap it again! Enjoy the weekend people!

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