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  1. #1

    Default The Problem With Cape Fear

    I'm referring to the Martin Scorcese version, of course. One of those rare instances where I think remakes surpass the originals. It's a pretty great film. One of DeNiro's ten best performances, IMO. Nick Nolte and Jessica Lange are also in top form. Even Joe "Mitchell" Don Baker is good. Proving Scorcese is a master at getting the best out of actors. Stylistically it is a great film, but plot wise it is a little problematic. A lot of classic horror/suspense tropes seem to plague the characterization and story. For instance, the Nolte character is increasingly stupid as the film progresses.

    Early on, he can't really make a strong case to the Police against DeNiro, since there is only hearsay evidence, so DeNiro is basically free to keep fucking with Nolte's family. However, after DeNiro assaults the 15 year old daughter IN HER SCHOOL, no one bothers to go to the police. Nolte echoes his private investigator's sentiment that the legal system is "slow and skeptical." That may be, but I'd think at this point there would have been pretty strong cause for the police to lock up DeNiro and charge him with attempted assault of a minor, not to mention trespassing on School property. The thing is, Nolte's character is a lwayer with experience in criminal defense and prosecution, so you'd think he would know all of this and be able to manipulate things to have DeNiro locked up and brought to trial. But nope, he doesn't do this, instead he goes and threatens DeNiro, and DeNiro of course gets this on tape, so after hired thugs have beat DeNiro up, he has a strong case against Nolte. I understand using the hired thugs as a last resort but why the hell would you go and threaten him first, when it's already pretty clear he isn't going to back down when faced with threats? So Nolte has just handed DeNiro, on a silver platter, reasonable justification to get a restraining order against Nolte. Then at the restraining order hearing when being chastised by the judge and DeNiro's attorney, as well as threatened with being disbarred, Nolte doesn't bother to bring up the attempted assault on his daughter, the alleged murder of their dog, nor the repeated showing up on their property and harassment of the family. He just stands there like an idiot and takes it as DeNiro's attorney turns the table and makes Nolte into a villain. So with Nolte we have an experienced lawyer who suddenly becomes completely inept in using his own system against a psychopathic stalker, and allows that system to be manipulated against himself. Nothing adds up about the Nolte character. It's all pretty weak writing to make the DeNiro character seem all the more terrifying and unstoppable, but a little scrutiny reveals how full of holes this film is.

  2. #2
    Senior Member Mal12345's Avatar
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    Of course Nolte becomes increasingly stupid. That's
    the point! By the end of the movie, during the houseboat scene, he even growls like an animal. Cady is trying to lower the family down to his level of bestial behavior.
    That's the point of Cady quoting the line, 'I am as great as God, and He is as small as me.'

  3. #3
    Senior Member Mal12345's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by asynartetic View Post
    I'm referring to the Martin Scorcese version, of course. One of those rare instances where I think remakes surpass the originals. It's a pretty great film. One of DeNiro's ten best performances, IMO. Nick Nolte and Jessica Lange are also in top form. Even Joe "Mitchell" Don Baker is good. Proving Scorcese is a master at getting the best out of actors. Stylistically it is a great film, but plot wise it is a little problematic. A lot of classic horror/suspense tropes seem to plague the characterization and story. For instance, the Nolte character is increasingly stupid as the film progresses. Early on, he can't really make a strong case to the Police against DeNiro, since there is only hearsay evidence, so DeNiro is basically free to keep fucking with Nolte's family. However, after DeNiro assaults the 15 year old daughter IN HER SCHOOL, no one bothers to go to the police. Nolte echoes his private investigator's sentiment that the legal system is "slow and skeptical." That may be, but I'd think at this point there would have been pretty strong cause for the police to lock up DeNiro and charge him with attempted assault of a minor, not to mention trespassing on School property. The thing is, Nolte's character is a lwayer with experience in criminal defense and prosecution, so you'd think he would know all of this and be able to manipulate things to have DeNiro locked up and brought to trial. But nope, he doesn't do this, instead he goes and threatens DeNiro, and DeNiro of course gets this on tape, so after hired thugs have beat DeNiro up, he has a strong case against Nolte. I understand using the hired thugs as a last resort but why the hell would you go and threaten him first, when it's already pretty clear he isn't going to back down when faced with threats? So Nolte has just handed DeNiro, on a silver platter, reasonable justification to get a restraining order against Nolte. Then at the restraining order hearing when being chastised by the judge and DeNiro's attorney, as well as threatened with being disbarred, Nolte doesn't bother to bring up the attempted assault on his daughter, the alleged murder of their dog, nor the repeated showing up on their property and harassment of the family. He just stands there like an idiot and takes it as DeNiro's attorney turns the table and makes Nolte into a villain. So with Nolte we have an experienced lawyer who suddenly becomes completely inept in using his own system against a psychopathic stalker, and allows that system to be manipulated against himself. Nothings adds up about the Nolte character. It's all pretty weak writing to make the DeNiro character seem all the more terrifying and unstoppable
    Q

    No no no no.

    And no.

    Toward the beginning of this movie Nolte learns that the legal system is dumb, slow, and 'pathetic' in handling situations such as the one Nolte was facing. For example, he is informed that there is nothing he can do to prevent Cady from sitting on his perimeter wall, and many other things. He got a restraining order, but it wasn't effective enough. Cady began to bother him in indirect ways. Nolte turned vigilante to protect himself and his family. Nolte, in his desparation, becomes the villain and Cady the victim in the eyes of the law. This was due mainly to Cady's manipulation of events. Nolte became increasingly irrational over time.

  4. #4

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mal12345 View Post
    Q

    No no no no.

    And no.

    Toward the beginning of this movie Nolte learns that the legal system is dumb, slow, and 'pathetic' in handling situations such as the one Nolte was facing. For example, he is informed that there is nothing he can do to prevent Cady from sitting on his perimeter wall, and many other things. He got a restraining order, but it wasn't effective enough. Cady began to bother him in indirect ways. Nolte turned vigilante to protect himself and his family. Nolte, in his desparation, becomes the villain and Cady the victim in the eyes of the law. This was due mainly to Cady's manipulation of events. Nolte became increasingly irrational over time.
    Yeah, there's that, Cady does manipulate Nolte to appear increasingly irrational and by virtue of that disreputable/discredited and a bad witness, even if this is not the case, and I think it is, the important think is that Nolte believes it. Maybe if he had not been as disillusioned with the legal system it would have been different but its important.

    Also, both of the features are historic, its really important to realise how much most of the legal sanctions which would have stopped Cady coming onto a school campus for instance, are recent innovations, even the tendency to "go to law" is a recent thing and also a social class and status bound thing too.

    I think that both films are good stand alone features and that the performances in each are brilliant but I have to say that I liked the original as much as the sequel and wouldnt say that one trumps the other, I was actually amazed for a black and white feature of its day that the film as so gritty and scary in a modern way.

    I think that De Niro's performance is almost too "sympathetic", I dont think the character of Cady is meant to be one dimensional but I equally dont believe that you are supposed to sympathise with him, the point of both features it could be argued is that the prison system is not rehabilitative, if anything it makes monsters worse or it simply makes monsters.

    Both features do a good job of illustrating how upon release some former prisoners are never going to "check" their prison culture at the door and proceed with their lives, the violent machismo culture goes with them, like its not a case of sniping this lawyer from a long range with a high velocity rifle, disappearing without a trace etc. So its not simply a revenge feature (a lot of revenge features are "just desserts" features when you think about it, this isnt) but something else, Cady behaves upon release in a fashion its likely he did in prison or others did in prison towards him or others.

    Remember that feature was created when descriptors like stalking hadnt been dreamt up, if someone had talked about stalking it would have probably been a reference to hunting and the big screen dealt in a lot of cliches and tropes, gangsters target gangsters and the suburbs are safe for hard working professionals, respectable church going republican types.
    It is a luxury to be understood - Ralph Waldo Emerson

    Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities - Voltaire

    A kind thought is the hope of the world - Anon
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