Convicted rapist Max Cady (Robert De Niro) discovers that Sam Bowden (Nick Nolte), the public defender that represented him 14 years earlier, buried a piece of evidence that could have prevented him from going to prison. Following his release, Max targets Sam and his family to exact vengeance and sets his sights on Sam’s teenage daughter Danielle (Juliette Lewis). As Sam tries to protect his family, he goes up against Max in a brutal battle that leads to a terrifying showdown.
‘Cape Fear’ was originally released in 1991 and it is a remake of the 1962 film of the same name that starred Robert Mitchum and Gregory Peck (interestingly both of the original stars have small roles here). The film went on to be critically-acclaimed and it was a hit at the box office with takings of more than $180 million. Robert De Niro and Juliette Lewis scored a slew of nominations for their performances including Oscar nods.
Remakes are always a tricky business with film fans choosing to shun them over the original but that wasn’t the case with ‘Cape Fear’ and it’s not hard to see why. The seventh collaboration between Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro, ‘Cape Fear’ is a masterclass in suspense that hooks you in right from the beginning and shreds your nerves by the end. The story unfolds fairly slowly but thanks to De Niro’s performance, there’s always an air of menace hanging over every scene.
Having not seen the film in years, I was surprised by just how brutal it is. De Niro committed to the role of Max Cady thoroughly and he’s nothing short of terrifying. As his vendetta against Sam escalates, the tension cranks up and by the climax it’s almost unbearable. The interesting plot point of Sam’s deception creates a moral dilemma for the viewer because had he not buried evidence, Max could have walked free or had a shorter sentence. Even knowing that though, you feel you would have done the same in Sam’s situation so you can’t really hold it against him (even though what he did was wrong).
Where the film mis-steps slightly, and it is only slightly, is that the end goes on too long. There’s something of the ‘Friday the 13th’ about it as Max refuses to go down without a fight. The scenes stretch believability with Max returning one too many times but as the film is near faultless up until then, it doesn’t detract too much from your enjoyment.
The performances across the board are superb. Robert De Niro, as I mentioned earlier, is terrifying and undoubtedly the star. This is the film that made Hollywood stand up and take notice of Juliette Lewis, who is superb as Sam’s curious and naïve daughter Danielle. Rounding out the main cast are Nick Nolte and Jessica Lange, who are believable as a couple fighting to save their marriage, and their family. There’s a strong turn from Joe Don Baker too as a private investigator that Sam hires to try and get Max out of their lives.
Extras on the Blu-ray release include deleted scenes, ‘The Making of Cape Fear’ featurette, behind-the-scenes footage of key scenes, photographs and paintings, and a theatrical trailer.
‘Cape Fear’ is a classic, there’s no doubt about it. It’s a rare instance where a remake can sit proudly next to the original and movie fans can enjoy both. Brutal, tense and gripping, ‘Cape Fear’ has stood the test of time and this new release from Fabulous Films nearly 30 years on, is a welcome reminder of what a superb thriller it is. I’d recommend checking out the Blu-ray version so you get the best picture and sound experience.
Cast: Robert De Niro, Nick Nolte, Jessica Lange, Juliette Lewis, Joe Don Baker Director: Martin Scorsese Writer: Wesley Strick Certificate: 18 Duration: 128 mins Released by: Fabulous Films Release date: 14th December 2020 Buy ‘Cape Fear’ on Blu-ray now