The Fan (1996)

Not since Taxi Driver has the silver screen seen a performance like Robert De Niro’s, as Gil Renard, a knife salesman-turned-Willy-Loman (but with far more consequence.) Clearly both the role De Niro assumes in Taxi Driver and that he assumes in The Fan require his specific dynamics in order to win the classic credibility both achieve. The Fan introduces an element in its story that is brought to parallel Gil Renard’s ultimate disillusion with the very last value he has left for life and the tragic decline of manufacturing in his country (and the attendant loss of quality in products) as well as the tragic all-to-common loss of marital bonds. That value, his love of baseball and the legendary myths he has attached to it, become the very last grasp he has on reality and on reaching out to others. It is the euphemism for the dangers we all face when illusion becomes delusion.

Had not Peter Abrahams, in the writing of his novel, thought of De Niro, surely the screen writer, Phoef Sutton, did. Casting must have been a breeze. The lovely Ellen Barkin shows a spunky, spirited side as radio show host/journalist, Jewel Stern, while Wesley Snipes plays a very convincing major league baseball slugger, Bobby Rayburn. Supporting cast performances are excellent with the direction by Tony Scott lacking nothing. He brings the scene changes, interpretation of script, camera work, flash-backs and choice of how he uses extras to a level of professionalism near artistry. You will not come away from this movie with a feeling any stone had been left unturned in fulfilling every cinematic success imaginable.

The beauty of almost everything having some significant point, even a rabbi inadvertently coming across Renard’s seething rage, and the instrument by which this comes about (a dagger thrown through a wall to kill a cockroach) signals the coming inevitability, as well as any horror movie might an impending carnage.

Americans alone can relate to the intended baseball allegory in as much as the storyline follows its influence on a fan rapidly verging into a stalker, verging into an increasingly indiscriminate but still not yet serial, killer. Not that, in retrospect, it’s understandable, but that in terms of declining social values, it’s conceivable.

And that’s the social value of this incredible movie. Are we all going where we want to go?

Highly, highly intense. Even hated seeing children in it, wouldn’t take anyone under twelve to it. Use Taxi Driver as a good basis for comparison in determining that. But for adults, this is a great movie and if this reviewer wouldn’t be giving too much away, he’d love to discuss the  many reasons why.

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