Fear X

on January 19, 2003 by Bridget Byrne
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"Fear X" is a movie in which the eyes have it. There's a lot of staring going on. That's fine because John Turturro is very good at that -- even the character's blankest gaze contains a kind of reverse reflection that manages to draw you inside the man's mind. But the problem is that what's he's staring at -- even the inner recesses of his own thoughts -- grows less intriguing as the film goes on. However, that could be blamed on the mind of the beholder, as Danish director Nicola Winding Refn has deliberately attempted to make the structure as abstract as possible without losing complete definition. Thus the audience is allowed considerable free interpretation of what appears to be occurring on screen.

Refn created the thin plot in collaboration with "Last Exit to Brooklyn" author Hubert Selby Jr., who died in 2004. Possessing "Blow Up" ties, the story revolves around the seemingly pointless murder of the wife of Wisconsin mall security guard Harry Cain, played by Turturro. In his effort to find the whys and wherefores of what happened, Cain has to deal with grief, paranoia, and his own doubts about his motives. His emotional and moral dilemmas, combined with clues obtained from obsessive freeze-frames and computer-enhanced video and photo images, lead him to Montana and another troubled man who practices a different form of security.

The movie is all about not understanding the big picture and not knowing how to deal with its complexity even at the moments when you think you do. Visually, the movie has a striking surety -- scenes in the snow are particularly evocative -- and the music by Brian Eno and J. Peter Schwalm is an apt fit. Intellectually, the story isn't as compelling Kafkaesque at it probably wants to be, but at least it has a mind of its own. Starring John Turturro, Deborah Kara Unger and James Remar. Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn. Written by Nicolas Winding Refn and Hubert Selby Jr. Produced by Henrik Danstrup. A Silver Nitrate release. Drama. Rated PG-13 for intense thematic material. Running time: 91 min

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