Cape Fear ★★★★½

89

"The South has a fine tradition for savoring fear."

Entirely driven by fear, as it's appropriately titled, this thriller contains Robert De Niro at his most unhinged, and casts a shadow in every frame even when he's not in the frame. It doesn't take long for his character to truly stand out, as you don't know whether to look at him or read him. De Niro is Max Cady, free from prison after 14 years for rape and battery of a 16 year old girl. It is hinted that he used these 14 years to educate himself, and once he gets out, he soon begins to terrorize Sam Bowden (the wonderful Nick Nolte) and his family (Jessica Lange and Juliette Lewis).

It is here that Scorsese is somehow able to work within the conventions of the thriller genre and yet he's able to glean so much more from what you might expect from a conventional thriller. It's self-aware at times, yet Scorsese is able to keep the pressure cooker going for one and half hours before it finally goes off in a thunderous climax that one won't soon forget. Scorsese is a master of violence, for he rarely takes pleasure in it, but instead counts on violence. Scorsese goes off in the last half hour, but what comes before is that he crafted one of the finest Hitchcockian thrillers I've seen yet, one for the ages. He doesn't quite imitate Hitchcock so much that he takes the Hitchcockian spin and makes it his own. It's a great mix, and the climax is just cherry on top. It may be Freddie Francis behind the camera in which he does great, but it's so clearly Scorsese firing on all cylinders. It's glorious.

No fans of Scorsese and cinema should miss this.

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