The Fan (1996)
By: Julian on January 14, 2011  | 
Sony | Region 4, PAL | 2.35:1 (16:9 enhanced) | English DD 5.1 | 111 minutes (Full Specs)
The Movie
Cover Art
Director: Tony Scott
Starring: Robert De Niro, Wesley Snipes, John Leguizamo, Benicio Del Toro, Ellen Barkin
Screenplay: Phoef Sutton
Country: USA
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Tony Scott is a director that I find immensely intriguing. He has helmed some really exceptional films – True Romance and Man on Fire immediately spring to mind – but too often has Scott made a Domino, or a – dare I say it – Top Gun. Scott's problem throughout many of his more recent films, including Man on Fire and a pretty-good remake of The Taking Of Pelham 123, is his frenetic hyper-editing, miles away from the style of his big brother Ridley.

The fact remains, though, that Scott the Younger can be a very good filmmaker when he wants to be, and in few films is this so plainly illustrated as The Fan. De Niro fans who opine that The Fan is little more than Taxi Driver-lite are being mean-spirited and a bit disingenuous: this powerful little thriller is tight as a barrel and Bobby, only a couple of years following his superb psycho role in Cape Fear, is pitch perfect as Wesley Snipes' obsessive fan.

Robert De Niro plays Gil Renard, a knife salesman whose acrimonious relationship with his employer is still considerably more amiable than his relationship with his ex-wife, who has custody of their young child. When Renard isn't selling knives and attempting to lure apathetic clients with his quips ("knife to meet you", Gil says to one with an uneasy smile), he is following the career rise and rise of national baseball star Bobby Rayburn (Wesley Snipes), who has been bought by Gil's local team, the San Francisco Giants, for a cool $40 million.

This sum incurs the wrath of radio commentator Jewel Stern (Ellen Barkin), who has hilarious on-air stoushes with Bobby and his agent Manny (John Leguizamo), but Gil couldn't be happier that his favourite player is playing for his town. Life suddenly takes a turn for the worse for Rayburn – he's left fighting allegations that he's a sell-out in the twilight of his years, and his brand is eclipsed by young, successful upstart Juan Primo (Benicio Del Toro).

The film flicks quite easily between Gil's failing attempts to balance work, his son and his ever-increasing obsession with Bobby Rayburn; and Rayburn himself, a man with his own son and haunted by his own demons, including a particularly debilitating superstition. But Gil Renard is really the star of the show – throughout the film his obsession intensifies and his language becomes increasingly off-colour, but De Niro is too talented an actor to mug before the camera, and Scott is too talented a director to let him (though you'd be forgiven for scoffing at that last comment if you've only been privy to Scott's later work).

The subtleties of Phoef Sutton's screenplay, in turn based on Peter Abrahams' book, make revisits of The Fan obligatory. Renard's earlier and current obsessions (to say Renard is a Rolling Stones fan is something of an understatement), his relationship with his son and his past friendships are all extremely important to this film. In this respect, The Fan is particularly well constructed because whilst being creepy from the word go, Renard manages simultaneously to be a character whom we can't help but sympathise with – only an actor with De Niro's calibre could have pulled something like that off, and those who say De Niro is slumming it here would do well to reappraise the movie.

There's no room for Scott's (sadly) regular MTV stylings here, and although this runs just shy of two hours, The Fan is an extremely taut and highly tense number – certainly a genre highlight of the nineties. Fans of De Niro and baseball will get a little bit more out of it than the average viewer; and the average viewer will be able to appreciate the film for what it is – an immensely entertaining and effective little thriller.
Presented in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio, with 16:9 enhancement. Apart from minor speckly film artefacts the transfer is excellent.
One English 5.1 Dolby soundtrack. It's fine. Accomplished composer Hans Zimmer wrote the score.
Extra Features
The Verdict
The Fan is a criminally underrated thriller that showcases an excellent performance by De Niro and some beautifully restrained direction from Scott. Genuinely scary at times, and undoubtedly Tony's best film.
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score

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