Cape Fear (1991)

Genres - Crime, Thriller  |   Sub-Genres - Crime Thriller, Psychological Thriller  |   Release Date - Nov 13, 1991 (USA)  |   Run Time - 128 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - R
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Review by Lucia Bozzola

Emphasizing dark brutality and family dysfunction, Martin Scorsese reconceived the early-'60s noir thriller Cape Fear (1991) for the far more jaded '90s. Rather than an attack on familial bliss, rapist Max Cady's vendetta against the Bowdens brings the existing rot to the surface; the diseased justice system provides an assist in the person of not only Nick Nolte's ex-public defender and philandering husband Sam Bowden, but also a slyly recast Gregory Peck as Cady's new attorney, and Robert Mitchum as a sheriff. The latent corruption reaches a peak in the creepy "seduction" scene between Robert De Niro's Cady and Juliette Lewis' Danielle Bowden; rather than a threatened innocent, she is a nubile, willing accomplice in Cady's game. Though Cady's Biblical vengeance, hellfire and brimstone tattoos, and legitimate beef with Sam initially make him a compelling villain, the over-the-top violence and horror movie grossness ultimately undermine the story's chilling elements, turning it into a rote genre piece that pales next to Scorsese's earlier work. Executed with technical aplomb, complete with Bernard Herrmann's original 1962 score recreated by Elmer Bernstein, Cape Fear became Scorsese's biggest box-office success (and fodder for a hilarious parody on TV's The Simpsons).