Cape Fear (1991)

Cape Fear (1991)

1991 R 128 Minutes

Crime | Thriller

Sam Bowden is a small-town corporate attorney. Max Cady is a tattooed, cigar-smoking, bible-quoting, psychotic rapist. What do they have in common? Fourteen years, ago Sam was a public defender ass...

Overall Rating

7 / 10
Verdict: Good

User Review

  • WHAT I LIKED: 'Cape Fear,' - a horror remake about a defence lawyer (Nick Nolte) and his family being taunted and threatened by a convicted rapist (Robert De Niro) after his release from prison - is an anomoly in Scorsese's filmography for two reasons.

    On a fundamental level, most of his other films are about the complexity of people and the conflict of their conscience, but this is a far more clear-cut affair. Sure, the characters are less black and white than in the 1962 original - the lawyer is cheating on his wife and makes a number of stupid decisions in his drive to insanity - but ultimately, the driving force behind the picture is an atmospheric one rather than anything deeper, as you just want them to get away safely.

    The way Scorsese builds that atmosphere is the other major difference between this and his other movies though. Normally, he likes to place his camera and let the performances, dialogue and sets he's capturing do the work in a rather naturalistic way. Here, the camera zooms in dramatically on the characters' faces, they have strange visions in stark negative, the weather booms ominously to reflect the intended mood, and the music pulses loudly and intrusively to emphasise every moment of fear or tension.

    That, along with the simply compelling narrative, makes for an often engaging horror flick that's helped to life by a truly terrifying, electrifying and scene-chewing performance from De Niro.

    WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE: The fact the characters are more imperfect makes it harder to root for them than in the original. More than that though, the whole thing just feels a little over-egged. Those atmospheric contrivances are often distracting and tiresome, and the hammy script from Wesley Strick (packed with all sorts of literature quotes and angry monologuing) doesn't help much either.

    VERDICT: A surprisingly schlocky horror from Scorsese, 'Cape Fear's atmosphere and simple narrative means it's engaging to a point, but it won't have you on the edge of your seat too much, and it definitely won't leave you contemplating or feeling in the way the his more interesting films do.