Cape Fear (1991)
Martin Scorsese’s remake of the 1962 adaptation of the novel The Executioners is a blistering and bloated blockbuster (it made almost $200 million worldwide), one that takes every liberty possible in exposing what J. Lee Thompson’s cult classic couldn’t due to censorships from the BBFC. Replacing Robert Mitchum’s Max Cady is another Robert in the form of De Niro, who leans down Mitchum’s puffed up bravado with jailbird ink that rests atop pulsating veins and stretched muscle. It’s a performance that’s equal parts Travis Bickle and Harvey Keitel’s Lieutenant (Bad) that takes Norman Bates obsessiveness, places it in a pressure cooker and sets it off!
There’s a cartoonish omnipotence to Cady that allows Scorsese, collaborating for a seventh time with De Niro, to go all out, doing so like a reckless Carolina gator after swallowing a satchel of fireworks. Replacing Lori Martin’s Nancy is Juliette Lewis’ Danielle, a choice that showcases sexual explosiveness, creating some of the tightest tension to grace the screen since Humbert Humbert moved into town. It even features cameos by Mitchum and Gregory Peck, our old Hollywood brushing up against the new, reminding everyone where it’s coming from.
Cape Fear is that remake that voyeuristically peers behind closed blinds, letting us know its intent when it can’t contain its perversion, and knowing that we very well can’t take our eyes off its brutally rolled up sleaze.