Cape Fear is a horror remake directed by Brooklyn big man Martin Scorsese, and is a welcome and terrifying entree into the genre. The plot surrounds a man just released from prison 14 years after being convicted for rape (Robert Deniro) and the revenge he intends for his defense lawyer (Nick Nolte), for what he thought was injustice and a poor defense. He stalks the lawyer, Sam Bowden, and his family at their home and while they are out in the city. A rather small town, most people are known. Max Cady, the stalker, truly accomplishes when it comes to invoking fear and paranoia in his victims, as well as turning Bowden’s teenage daughter into the image of a slut, though she didn’t do anything with Max when he approached her.
By recognizing the motions and wanting to correct things, it externalizes the inner fear of Max Cady, and since this externalization is what we see from Bowden, and not actually what went on fourteen-years ago, we can have no clue if Max was cheated or not. Does he have the right to revenge? No, of course not; but what I believe Scorsese has done here is created a monster out of a victim. He’s taken a man, dressed him tattoo’s and a Marine-like muscle tone, and then stated the facts and opinions of Sam and Max. When Sam isn’t under his own spell of self-righteousness, he seems to me like a shady character; he doesn’t remember much about what happened in court, yet remembers what exactly caused Max to get into court in the first place and has negative opinions about what Max did. He thought it was disgusting: Is that what a defense attorney should be thinking?
Despite being in the horror genre, I find Cape Fear to be highly philosophical. The woman who Max raped is a prostitute, a whore, he says once released. Did Max know this and should it matter? The performances in the film are very well done, including the young teenage girl, played by Juliette Lewis, who is a main point of restlessness for Sam after she has encounters with Max. Scorsese takes man vs. man to the limit, with a heart-pounding meditation on human rights and self-dignity. The fear mounts in the third act and the persona of Max Cady is heightened to insanity by Scorsese, creating a jam-packed ending: Can the lawyer beat Max Cady, without using the words he’s so attune to as a defense-mechanism?