It's a rare movie that holds back information, allowing the audience to get inside it and ask questions about its strange universe, like Nicolas Winding Refn's "Fear X."
The film stars John Turturro as Harry Caine, a mall security guard who becomes obsessed with finding his wife's murderer, which was captured, muddy and distant, on the mall's video security system.
Like another angle on Michelangelo Antonioni's "Blow-Up," the plot follows Harry as he studies the tapes and digital pictures, looking for connections and clues. He becomes obsessed with a house across the street from his own, breaks in and finds a strip of film -- a vague clue that leads him to Montana. Once there, his crosses paths with a cop (James Remar) and his wife (Deborah Kara Unger).
The point of the film is not what happens next or how it happens, but more abstract questions, like "why?" Harry is not interested in catching his wife's killer or in getting revenge, but in simply asking why he did it. As the film builds, director Refn skillfully allows Harry to get both closer and farther away form his goal, like an optical illusion or a search for perfection in an imperfect universe.
A strange group of people came together for this story. Turturro gives an uncharacteristically internal performance, forgoing his usual tics and grandstanding for a portrait of a man who has hardened his soul. The cinematography is by Larry Smith, a former camera operator for Stanley Kubrick for the past several decades ("Barry Lyndon," "The Shining," "Eyes Wide Shut"), and his gliding, dreamlike work is unmistakably Kubrick-esque. The incredibly spare musical score is co-composed by art-music guru Brian Eno, and the screenplay was co-written by Hubert Selby Jr., that scribe of unrelenting addiction, sleaze and depression ("Last Exit to Brooklyn," "Requiem for a Dream").
Danish-born director Nicolas Winding Refn makes his English-language debut here, and if nothing else, he shows an unerring eye in selecting his talent and the restraint to make it come together.
It's difficult to explain "Fear X," not only to avoid giving the plot away, but also because so much is left up to interpretation. No doubt the film's ending will leave most viewers with a "huh?" impression, but it's a hugely intriguing experience.
Run time: 91 mins
In Theaters: Friday 4th April 2003
Distributed by: Moviehouse Entertainment
Production compaines: TV2 Danmark, Det Danske Filminstitut, NWR Film Productions, Nordisk Film
Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 58%
Fresh: 19 Rotten: 14
IMDB: 5.9 / 10
Director: Nicolas Winding Refn
Starring: John Turturro as Harry, Deborah Kara Unger as Kate, Stephen Eric McIntyre as Phil, William Allen Young as Agent Lawrence, Gene Davis as Ed, Mark Houghton as Diner Cop, Jacqueline Ramel as Claire, James Remar as Peter, Nadia Litz as Ellen, Amanda Ooms as Prostitute, Liv Corfixen as Hotel Waitress, Frank Adamson as Adamson