Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn, starring John Turturro, James Remar and Deborah Kara Unger.
Co-written with late author Hubert Selby Jr, Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn makes his English language debut with this uneven but compelling film about the morality of punishment and revenge.
Turturro plays Harry Cain, a security guard whose wife was one of two people shot dead at the Wisconsin shopping mall where he works. After months of apparently no clues about or motive for the double slaying, the police contact Harry. They question him on whether his wife was involved in any political organisations and her life before they married. And then they tell him that the second victim was in fact a DEA agent.
What Harry has never told the police is that he has been investigating his wife's murder himself, watching hours of CCTV footage of the night in question and making profiles of everyone on it. He's also been having strange dreams and visions of his wife, where she looks at him as she crosses the road to a neighbouring house. With the new revelation from the
police, Harry decides to act on his visions and break into the house across from him - a decision that will soon take him hundreds of miles from home and into the lives of a decorated Montana police lieutenant (Remar) and his wife (Unger).
Refn's previous films 'Pusher' and 'Bleeder' both had moments of extreme violence, but 'Fear X' substitutes atmosphere for animosity. The first hour is excellent as we are taken into the very closed world of Harry Cain, becoming his accomplice as he obsesses over the smallest details and assigns them meaning. "Maybe I don't have to know who, if I could find out why," says the everyman - and for a while we believe him. Yet, as the film progresses, so too does the feeling that Harry's grief must come out somewhere and that knowledge alone will not satisfy him. It's a great performance by Turturro, his muted emotions and shyness the body armour of a man consumed by loss but empowered by it too.
Like all Refn's work, 'Fear X' was shot chronologically and, given that the film was made on a tight budget, it's not too much of a surprise that the ending feels rushed. When Harry gets to Montana - where a man with an almost mirror-image life of the one he's lost resides - the story is set-up for an explosion of tension. But the face-off doesn't do justice to the build-up
and while the film's finale will lead you to assess Harry's quest in a completely different way, it's an ending that would've had more power with more time.
Refn has said that when he decided to direct his first film in English he wanted to do three things: make a thriller, work with Hubert Selby Jr on the script and with Brian Eno on the soundtrack. He's done all three and, even with the flaws, deserves credit for a lot more besides.