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Cape Fear
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Reviews & Ratings for
Cape Fear More at IMDbPro »

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98 out of 116 people found the following review useful:

Not Scorcese's best, but pretty good!

8/10
Author: Duncan Gowers from London, United Kingdom
12 September 2000

Martin Scorcese's filmography as director is one of the most accomplished in modern film history. While Cape Fear can't even hold a candle next to "Taxi Driver", "Raging Bull" and "Goodfellas", it is still a fabulous remake of the 1962 noir classic and it keeps the viewer on the edge right through until the closing credits.

Robert De Niro (in yet another brilliant teaming with Scorcese behind the camera) plays Max Cady, a psychopathic rapist who was sent to jail 14 years earlier for such crimes. He leaves prison with vengeance. Not for his victims or his prosecutor, but his defence councillor, Sam J. Bowden, played by Nick Nolte. It seems Bowden did not defend Cady to the best of his ability. Cady knows this and wants some payback.

Cady's initial return into Bowden's life could not have come at a worse time. Bowden has been forced to move his family to Florida after his infidelities threatened his marriage and career. His wife is distrustful and worst of all, Bowden is on the verge of beginning another affair with a female workmate. Added to that, his daughter is at the difficult age of 15.

Almost by ozmosis, Cady understands these problems in the Bowden household and acts on them. He begins terrorising Bowden and his whole family, taking it from one extreme to the next.

What makes Cape Fear such a good film is the rapidly increasing sense of claustrophobia. Scorcese makes a point of using almost only close up shots towards the end of the film. It is a great touch that makes the viewer that much more scared as the film goes on.

Along with that, Robert De Niro is superb as Cady. Only occasionally does the role slip into parody. Mostly he is expertly evil.

Nick Nolte is good if not great, the same for Jessica Lange as Leigh Bowden. It seems as if they were void of any great lines in this film, which is unfortunate given their immense talent. Julliette Lewis is absolutely brilliant as the young daughter, Danielle. She slips effortlessly between curious sexual awakenings, rebellious teen and straight thinking woman. Add in small roles for Robert Mitchum and Gregory Peck (the leads of the 1962 version) and you have a great ensemble cast.

So not the best Scorcese film ever, but some tight editing, great camerawork, a haunting theme and devilishly over-the-top acting help make this a frighteningly fun movie to watch. Strongly recommended.

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109 out of 151 people found the following review useful:

The Great Un-American Classic!

9/10
Author: Dan1863Sickles from Troy, NY
30 April 2005

This brutal, violent and suspenseful thriller combines a scorching performance by Robert Deniro, sumptuous location photography, and a powerful script that raises disturbing questions about religion, sex, and class distinctions in our so-called classless society.

At first glance Max Cady seems to be just another creep, a rapist and convict out to torment and humiliate a nice, upper-middle class family. "He's an ex-con," yuppie lawyer Sam Bowden smugly says, with fatuous self-satisfaction. But gradually it becomes apparent that things are not what they seem. The wholesome, "superior" middle class family is rotten with corruption, while the vicious, "psychotic" ex-con is a man of extraordinary courage, intelligence, and spiritual strength. Even his most horrible acts of violence are connected to the corrupt and self-serving behavior of his "betters." What makes this movie work so well is that director Martin Scorsese breaks away from his usual mean streets milieu. If Max Cady had been an Italian wise guy, the movie would have made excuses for him. The outcome would have been predictable. But here the great director remains an impartial observer of criminal behavior, rather than a sentimental apologist for ethnic violence. (As in GANGS OF NEW YORK.) Max Cady is pure evil, but he speaks the truth about the evil of allowing class distinctions to flourish in a so-called "democracy." When it came out, this movie was reviled by critics, especially by effete yuppies like Terence Rafferty at GQ and VANITY FAIR. Most of them whined about the violence, but it was painfully clear that what really disturbed them was the possibility that an ugly ex-con really could be smarter, tougher, and more virtuous than a spoiled yuppie lawyer.

Shocking!!!

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67 out of 91 people found the following review useful:

Mortal Sins

Author: Robert J. Maxwell (rmax304823@yahoo.com) from Deming, New Mexico, USA
7 April 2004

The climaxes are emblematic of the differences between Scorcese's version and the original. In 1962, Mitchum was ordinary, ironic, sneaky. Peck was Peck. And the climax was quiet. Crickets chirped. There was no wind. Bodies crept around in black shadows or splashed together in shallow water. In this one, Nolte is a lawyer who has broken the code and DeNiro is his nemesis, tatooed, obscene, half his face burned off, a raving maniac. Not sinister, just absolutely loco. And the confrontation is situated in a howling gale, earsplitting noise, rushing rapids, the groan of fiberglass hull splitting on rocks, blood all over the place.

I don't know that one version is in any objective sense better than the other, although I vastly prefer the earlier version. I liked Mitchum's character better. He was quite ordinary in an extraordinary way. But from the beginning DeNiro seems to overplay the role. His accent, redolent of grits and red-eye gravy, seems to sit uncomfortably on him (maybe he's played in too many New York movies), whereas Mitchum's sly Southern drawl comes out oh so naturally. And that sinister grin of Mitchum's is worth a dozen lessons at the Actor's Studio.

But there is one scene in which DeNiro outdoes Mitchum in terms of sheer impact. It's when the wrecked houseboat is being swept out into the raging river with DeNiro shackled to a stanchion about to be drowned. DeNiro launches into this fit of screaming nonsense and singing gibberish hymns, insane in a way you'll never be. It's an explosive performance.

Juliette Lewis is remarkable too. Her "umms" and "ahhs" and other hesitations fit her barely nubile personality exactly. Her scene with DeNiro in the mock Schwarzwald of the high school auditorium is impossible not to admire. Nick Nolte and Jessica Lange turn in professional performances, as do the other principal actors.

I'm not sure why I like the earlier version better. Maybe because it was so awesomely simple a story compared to this one. There was good and there was evil. We all know the world doesn't work that way, but it's fascinating to watch a simple-minded tale being spun out like a well-told fairy story. This one invites us to think about things. Unlike Lori Martin in 1962, Juliette Lewis gets a temporary case of the hots for the well-read and manipulative ex-con. And unlike Peck in 1962, Nolte has committed sins. He held back information that might have helped his client, DeNiro, because he was convinced that DeNiro was guilty and should be put away. I can't figure out what Jessica Lange or the dog did, but everybody has to be redeemed anyway because of original sin. Scorcese's Catholicism may be showing.

Overall, this is flashier in every respect than the original -- more guns, more blood, more "force majeur" -- and maybe that's part of the problem. At times it looks as much like pandering to an audience of kids raised on MTV's quick cuts and sexy bodies and on Sly Stallone's action movies. I mean that at times it felt like the movie was talking down to the audience.

Still, it's an interesting movie in its own right. Not badly done. But I wish they'd stop pushing out remakes of classics. Leave well enough alone because otherwise you're liable to find yourself in Dante's Purgatorio.

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66 out of 91 people found the following review useful:

A disturbing and intense thriller

9/10
Author: Kristine (kristinedrama14@msn.com) from Chicago, Illinois
26 January 2005

You've pretty much read it in my comments, I am a huge fan of M.S. and R.D. But honestly, I watched "Cape Fear" because I bought "The Simpsons" 5th season on DVD, and I had no idea that the Sideshow Bob episode where he tries to kill Bart was based on this movie. So, I knew I had to rent this movie if it was good enough to parody on "The Simpsons". And it was very disturbing to watch. Robert DeNiro is one of my favorite actors, and he completely freaked me out in this film. Especially the scene between him and Juliette Lewis. Even though in some ways this film is done a little over the top, it all adds together very well. I was very impressed with this film and would recommend it to Martin Scorsesse fans of course. Even though I wouldn't say this was his best work, it is one of his best thrillers though.

9/10

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45 out of 59 people found the following review useful:

One of the better thrillers of the 90's

9/10
Author: Idocamstuf from Greenville, NY
9 December 2004

I have wanted to see this movie for quite some time, and I finally saw it, and I thought that it was great. I am a huge Martin Scorsese fan, and I would have to say this is one of his most true to life films, even though its not his best film. The acting is great,and so is the music. The film will send shivers through your body. This is also one of DeNiro's most underrated performances and deserved more attention at the time of its release. Its also great to see some of the actors from the original version show up in cameo roles. If you like horror films and thrillers, you will most likely enjoy this. ***1/2 out of ****. A recommended viewing.

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34 out of 44 people found the following review useful:

"Counselor, Come Out! Come Out! Wherever You Are!"

Author: BaronBl00d (baronbl00d@aol.com) from NC
10 April 2001

Robert De Niro is one of those actors that just melts into a role. His performance as rapist, convict, and all-around not-a-very-nice fellow Max Cady is certainly one of his most memorable performances for its stamina, strength, and excessiveness. The film by Martin Scorsece is a remake of the classic film starring Robert Mitchum and Gregory Peck. Although Scorsece keeps the spirit of the film intact, he does make some very modern changes. He changes the role of Sam Bowden and family from one of harmony to dysfunction. No character is the epitome of a universal good, but rather flawed(very flawed) goodness. Nick Nolte does a fine job as Bowden and Jessica Lange and Juliette Lewis both give deep, emotional performances. The film is really a sea of emotion...most of that emotion being fear. Scorsece adds some arty touches with the camera, but it is his gritty style that really dominates the film's impact. Scorsece also is ever the protector of film as he gives cameos to Gregory Peck, Robert Mitchum, and Martin Balsam(all in the original film). The other acting standout goes to Joe Don Baker as a hired private investigator. But make no mistake....this is De Niro's film all the way. He has some of the best lines as he harasses the Bowden family, terrorizes the Bowden family, and strips the Bowden family of all civility, pretense, and dignity. This film is definitely a keeper!

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39 out of 59 people found the following review useful:

Robert DeNiro truly gives this movie its element of fear

10/10
Author: Lee Eisenberg (lee.eisenberg.pdx@gmail.com) from Portland, Oregon, USA
24 May 2005

To me, it's amazing that there's actually a place in North Carolina called Cape Fear, but it provides the perfect setting for this movie. Several years after attorney Sam Bowden (Nick Nolte) defended convicted rapist Max Cady (Robert DeNiro), Cady gets out of jail and decides that Bowden didn't do a good job defending him. After Sam and Max meet each other a few times, Max starts getting crazier and crazier. After he tries to enter Sam's house, Sam and his family go into hiding at Cape Fear. Then, the terror really begins.

Martin Scorsese brought a unique intensity to movies like "Mean Streets" and "Taxi Driver", but this is something completely different. Whereas his earlier movies simply made you identify with the characters, "Cape Fear" makes you both identify with the characters and find them unpleasant. Not only Max Cady, but also the Bowdens. They are never the "ideal American family", but Cady's threats against them make them get progressively nastier in their attitudes towards each other and to other people.

I think that it's safe to say that after watching "Cape Fear", you will never look at any person the same way again.

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26 out of 41 people found the following review useful:

Seeking Retribution

Author: beagle-1 from Sparta, IL
29 April 2003

Robert De Niro plays Max Cady, an illiterate criminal who has been imprisoned for fourteen years on rape and battery charges. Nick Nolte plays Sam Bowden, Cady's lawyer who intentionally buried a valuable document, which may have allowed Cady's prison sentence to be significantly shorter. Cady learns to read while in prison. He starts with 'See Spot Run,' then proceeds to study law books. Cady's rage and desire for revenge grows with each additional day that he is in prison. Although Cady's original prison sentence was only eight years, it is increased to fourteen years due to battery of another inmate. He memorizes the Bible and tattoos his body with scripture referring to vengeance. When Cady is finally released from prison, he immediately seeks out Bowden and his family. Cady has become a scripture slinging psychopath hell bent on revenge. The director Martin Scorsese is attempting to prove that everyone has skeletons in their closet. Bowden might appear to be a terrific lawyer and loving family man on the surface, but underneath the perfect image lies a cheating husband and corrupt lawyer. Scorsese also shows how powerful the emotion of revenge can be and how it can distort ones version of what is right and wrong. Scorsese demonstrates this by showing Cady's knowledge of scripture and his acceptance of the terror that he is inflicting on the Bowden family. Scorsese's use of cameo appearances by Robert Mithcum and Gregory Peck was brilliant. The fact that they played such opposite roles in the original film was an interesting twist. I enjoyed the original 1962 version more than this remake, but I feel that the blood being in color definitely added to the terror that this film inflicts.

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28 out of 48 people found the following review useful:

Not in his (Scorsese's) best, but definately has it's moments of glory

8/10
Author: MisterWhiplash from United States
24 March 2001

Martin Scorsese takes his first whack at the horror/thriller genre with a remake of the 1962 classic of the same title. While I can not truthfully say the original was better due to the fact that I never saw the original, I have a feeling that Scorsese has brought his maestro touch to the film that changes it slightly from the original to make it better, because this is quite the suspenser.

Here, a very dangerous and evil man named Max Cady (played in one of the best villain roles of the 90's by Robert De Niro) gets out of jail after 14 years of imprisonment, and decides to get vengeance on the lawyer (Nick Nolte) and his family (Jessica Lange the mother and a young and supple Juliette Lewis as the daughter). At times the film is surprisingly slow, but the film is never boring, and suspense is always in the air; the climax/ending contains some of Scorsese and De Niro's finest work. Also, De Niro steals the show as the animal Cady by making the person who is supposed to be the hero into a flawed character, thereby turning the film almost into a Film-noir, which is quite a feat for Scorsese and company. Not perfect, but it shouldn't be. Those are Scorsese's parents briefly buying fruit. A-

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10 out of 15 people found the following review useful:

Don't Give A Psycho A Grudge

7/10
Author: bkoganbing from Buffalo, New York
14 May 2008

Even though Robert DeNiro was nominated for Best Actor for this Martin Scorsese directed remake of Cape Fear, my heart is still with the original. The multi-tattooed voluminous DeNiro is far less menacing than Robert Mitchum was in the original.

One thing Scorsese did was change the billing to reflect the importance of the characters. Mitchum was billed second to Gregory Peck, the upright attorney who Mitchum threatened and stalked along with Peck's family. Then again Peck was producing the original Cape Fear so of course he was first billed.

Part of the problem was that with some 20 to 30 minutes additional running time Scorsese used it to make his characters a bit more complex. DeNiro was a real basket case as Max Cady in this one whereas Robert Mitchum was just plain no good.

Nick Nolte plays attorney Sam Bowden and he's also far more complex and not such a good guy. In the original film Peck was an attorney, but he was a witness in the trial that convicted Cady of rape. Here he was Cady's attorney and he tanked the case because Cady was such a psycho he deserved to be behind bars. Cady in fact does have a grudge of sorts against him. And it's not good to get a psycho mad at you.

Also Peck and his whole family which consisted of Polly Bergen and Lori Martin back in the original was your basic all American white bread family. Their very wholesomeness made the scope of Mitchum stalking them all the more frightening.

Nolte and Jessica Lange have marital problems and their daughter Juliette Lewis is not Mary Poppins. Not that they deserved what DeNiro was going to do to them, but it does blunt the impact of the scope of his evil.

Gregory Peck, Robert Mitchum, and Martin Balsam from the original cast all played supporting parts here. But while the film that Scorsese did is a good one, their presence made me all the more hunger for the original.

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