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Scorsese revisits this classic 1960s tale of a psychotic's revenge on his defence attorney and his family, and ups the ante with added horror, grand guignol and technical bravura
Martin Scorsese's re-make was undertaken, he says, "as a favour to the studio", and he is certainly working in broad, populist strokes here, stoking up the murderous tension, sacrificing plausibility, and turning in a piece rigid with suspense and psychopathic cat-and-mouse. It's not difficult to see what attracted him to the story. Like most, if not all, of his movies, it's a story of guilt, sin and redemption.
The 1961 thriller had Robert Mitchum playing the murderous rapist, Max Cady, released from jail, bent on revenge on his defence lawyer and his family. Cady here is played by De Niro, and becomes a cartoonish incarnation of Biblical vengeance: rippling muscles, scripture quotations and scales of justice tattoos - overwrought, but great fun to watch. In Gregory Peck's role as the sniffy lawyer, Sam Bowden, is Nolte, his character now a petty adulterer. De Niro is terrifying, Nolte vacillates believably between strength and weakness, and Juliette Lewis, as Sam's daughter, Danielle, is amazing as she explores her burgeoning sexuality.
The remake is good, like the original, but still less than the sum of its parts. The darker side given to the Bowden family, particularly, seems little more than a conceit - why couldn't they be straightforwardly good as in the first version? Are we too complex for that nowadays?
Look out for cameos from Peck, Mitchum and Martin Balsam: they all appeared in the original.
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