Fear X
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir Nicolas Winding Refn
scr Nicolas Winding Refn, Hubert Selby Jr
with John Turturro, James Remar, Deborah Kara Unger, Stephen McIntyre, William Allen Young, Eugene M Davis, Mark Houghton, Jacqueline Ramel, Liv Corfixen, Nadia Litz, Amanda Ooms, Chad Panting
release Denmark 4.Apr.03; UK 26.Mar.04
03/Denmark 1h31

Quest for truth: Turturro spots something on the security tape.

turturro unger remar
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Fear X This is one of those quietly gnawing thrillers that slowly gets under our skin with its oppressive atmospherics and intense performances. Harry Caine (Turturro) is a shopping mall security guard in Wisconsin, obsessed with the shooting death of his wife (Ramel in flashbacks), right in the mall's parking garage. Pouring over security tapes, talking with his colleague (McIntyre) and frustrated by inability of the police detective (Young) to find any real leads, Harry is led by suspicions and fantasies that take him to Montana to meet a mystery woman (Unger) and her decorated-cop husband (Remar). Does he have any real idea how close he is to a viper's nest of violence and corruption?

Refn films this story, which he cowrote with Selby (Requiem for a Dream), like a muted drug trip! Lurid colours and eerie noises create an unsettling ambience that keeps us off balance from the very beginning. And a terrific performance from Turturro draws us in--we see almost everything through his eyes, to the point where even we start to believe in his hallucinations. All he wants to know is why his wife died--he's not driven by a desire for revenge, or at least he doesn't think he is. All of this is crystal clear in Turturro's haunting performance.

So it seems strange that the script actually undercuts his point of view by giving us the solution to the puzzle relatively early on. And the whole thing feels rather pretentious--Refn seems overly pleased with his own cleverness, laying on the hypnotic austerity a bit thickly, staying elusive and insinuating almost to the point where the film becomes dull and lifeless beneath the carefully constructed terror. The cinematography, score and production design all draw heavily from David Lynch, but without Lynch's deeply emotional resonance. Instead of a yawning sense of desperate sadness, this film gives us a driving quest for truth. It's clever and creepy, but not quite the masterpiece Refn thinks it is.

cert 12 themes, violence, suspense 14.Jan.04

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2004 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall