Cape Fear (1991) review (Blu-ray)

Remaking well known movies is always dangerous territory and the inevitable comparisons to your predecessor can affect the way you tell your story but occasionally those remakes surpass their source material. This project falls somewhere in the middle. The plot is very similar to the original with Max Cady (De Niro), a recently released convict, on a revenge mission to track down and terrorise the defence lawyer Sam Bowden (Nolte) Bowden didn't quite do his best when defending Cady and he is held responsible for Cady's suffering. Soon Cady is stalking and scaring Bowden's family and pushes the lawyer to his limits.

The film strikes a dark tone from the start and adds more character development to  Nolte's character with marriage issues and a possible affair giving Bowden a bit more to do. The film feels flashier and more action packed and yet the tension between the lead characters is not what it should be. The core ideals remain the same though and the tough decisions that Bowden has to make are still fascinating as his faith in the judicial system doesn't protect him and his family at all. Soon you question whether Bowden did enough to defend Cady? Is Cady perhaps justified in his outrage?

But Nick Nolte's character has a limited role and once again the film hinges on the character of the oppressive Max Cady. De Niro takes a very different approach and manages to give Cady a stronger physical presence, makes him feel sleazier and adds a gratuitous sexual and violent nature to him. Becoming disturbing when he begins approaching Bowden's daughter, the young but very impressive Juliette Lewis, who delivers a great performance with a very demanding and challenging role for one so young.  The character of Cady is a mixed bag though with some excellent moments such as when he is in the cinema upsetting the audience with raucous laghter but the character is more of a lunatic than the previous calcualting menace. The character does have a relentless quality, with his pursuit feeling like it will never end but he does become tiresome by the final act. He is heavily overused and it becomes frustrating by the end.

This simple revenge story has a nice blend of familiarity with the original but there is enough new creative material to make it worthwhile seeing. The music was wisely adapted from the original score and has the same impressive effect on the film, plus cameos from Gregory Peck and Robert Mitchum prove very satisfying. However the film is not streamlined enough, runs far too long and becomes tiresome in the final act.

EXTRAS ★★★★★ The disc has 10 minutes of deleted scenes, a lengthy making-of documentary, several behind the scenes videos, a photograph montage detailing De Niro's transformation into Cady, matte paintings, some info on the inspiration behind the opening credits and a theatrical trailer. A lot of detailed videos and a great package for the release.

Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.

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