Cape Fear (1991)

Cape Fear
Director: Martin Scorsese
Writer: Wesley Stick
Based on: John D. MacDonald‘s novel The Executioners
Remake of: Cape Fear
Cast: Robert De Niro, Nick Nolte, Jessica Lange, Juliette Lewis, Robert Mitchum, Gregory Peck, Joe Don Baker

Sam Bowden (Nick Nolte) is a successful lawyer with a nice family. But when Max Cady (Robert De Niro) – who Sam defended for raping a young girl, but not very well – is released from prison, Max starts to threaten Sam’s entire life and family. He stalks all of them, but particularly Sam’s daughter Danielle (Juliette Lewis), but always just within the law – until he forces Sam to resort to desperate measures.

Since I wasn’t that into the original, I didn’t expect much from this film. But this film has three things the original didn’t have: Scorsese, a modern feel and some idea of feminism. I liked it a lot.

The cast was really good in this one, too. I loved that both Robert Mitchum and Gregory Peck got an appearance. And it’s not surprising that Robert De Niro can play a fucking psycho with apparent ease and he really is great in the role. Jessica Lange and Juliette Lewis are wonderful, too (also to no-one’s surprise).

Especially Juliette Lewis really lucked out with the script. I mean, both Leigh and Danielle get to be actual characters and not generally useless points of attack for Sam. And I really liked that it’s Danielle who gets to tell the story and that she got to be so many things at once: curious, scared, slightly in love with Max, a teenager, naive and a bit cynical, but never stupid.

The only thing that the movie could have retained from the original, but unfortunately didn’t, was the understated violence. When Max [SPOILER] rapes Sam’s colleague and bites a hole into her cheek, that was a bit much. [/SPOILER] But at least the movie gets the perfidity of the victim-blaming absolutely right.

But the film is not only a win when it comes to the sexism, or better, the lack thereof. Scorses manages to rack up the tension that was just lost in the original for the most part. You really get to feel Sam’s desperation and his hopelessness and you can completely understand why he would resort to violence – you really can’t see any other options, just like him. That makes the movie pretty uncomfortable, but also gives it its strength.

Summarising: great update.

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