Review: Fear X

The self-consciousness of Nicolas Winding Refn’s direction complements the compulsiveness of Turturro’s character, but there’s really nothing to Fear X.

Fear X
Photo: Silver Nitrate Releasing

Some time after the mysterious shooting death of his pregnant wife inside an underground parking garage, mall security officer Harry Caine (John Turturro) is still sifting through the white noise of countless security tapes for information that may lead him to her killer. “Who knows what you may find if you keep looking,” he argues with himself, haunted by the house across the street that reveals a photograph of a married woman (Deborah Kara Unger) that leads him to a town in Montana. Bringing to mind chic film exercises from The Conversation and Barton Fink to Irréversible and One Hour Photo, Fear X may be aesthetically derivative but it’s the method to its madness—or lack thereof—that’s most troubling. Repeatedly zooming in on the back of Harry’s head and frequently cutting away to a red-tinted netherworld meant to evoke the man’s hellish sorrow, director Nicolas Winding Refn evokes grief as a Lynchian put-on. Like The Machinist, it appears that the film has something up its sleeve, and though the self-consciousness of Refn’s direction complements the compulsiveness of Turturro’s character, there’s really nothing to Fear X. Which is to say that the film amounts to 90 minute’s worth of hot air—gorgeous as that air frequently looks and sounds (the score is by Brian Eno), it’s still overblown.

 Cast: John Turturro, Deborah Kara Unger, William Allen Young, Gene Davis, Mark Houghton, Jacqueline Ramel, James Remar  Director: Nicolas Winding Refn  Screenwriter: Hubert Selby Jr., Nicolas Winding Refn  Distributor: Silver Nitrate Releasing  Running Time: 91 min  Rating: PG-13  Year: 2003  Buy: Video

Ed Gonzalez

Ed Gonzalez is the co-founder of Slant Magazine. His writing has also appeared in The Village Voice and The Los Angeles Times. He’s a member of the New York Film Critics Circle, the Critics Choice Association, and the Latino Entertainment Journalists Association.

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