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3 reviews, 65 user ratings

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by Jack Sommersby

"A Derivative but Entertaining Thriller"
4 stars

My gosh -- it's a thriller that actually thrills!

Fear, despite its rotten title and ludicrous final act, is entertaining and incredibly well-crafted. It's basically a teenage version of Fatal Attraction where a lover, after being rejected for their obsessive tendencies, regresses back to their innate violent nature to win back, at whatever cost, their object of desire. The overall plot structure is pretty much a by-the-numbers schema that dates as far back as 1971 when Clint Eastwood contended with a homicidal Jessica Harper in Play Misty With Me, and being that the 1990s haven't exactly been the time for fresh innovations for improving upon shopworn formulas, it would seem Fear would inevitably be an imagination-depleted bust. Luckily, Universal Pictures, along with producers Brian Grazer and Ric Kidney, have acquired a surprisingly volatile script and a brilliantly intuitive stylist in director James Foley (At Close Range) to give dynamic tension to the story.

Reese Witherspoon stars as Nicole Walker, a pretty, newly-blossomed sixteen-year-old who's beginning to feel the heat of her bubbling hormonal impulses. She and her promiscuous friend Cindy (Alyssa Milano) go to a rowdy Seattle club where she meets a handsome young man in his twenties, David (Mark Wahlberg), who excites her with his take-charge confidence and alluring romanticism. (Wahlberg plays him like a dark-tone James Dean.) They start dating and the two become inseparable. When introduced to Nicole's family, he easily ingratiates himself into their social expectances of what exactly a boyfriend of Nicole's should be. Her stepmother and brother are won over, but not her father, Steven (William Petersen), an overworked architect whose business hours have extended into his home life, which has distanced him from his daughter and her changing needs.

Steven (as well as the audience) instinctively smells a rat in David. There's something mechanically posed and calculating in his appealing charm, as if every aspect of his projected persona has been mapped out and programmed to get just the right effect. Against his better wishes, knowing that any immediate negativity toward David will only separate him from Nicole even further, Steven allows the relationship to persist while keeping close tabs on them. But he doesn't hide his skepticism very well, and, when Nicole picks up on it, it only succeeds in driving her even closer to David. It's in scenes like these that Fear really comes through. The screenplay is uncommonly perceptive in letting us see just how difficult a father-daughter relationship can be in this day and age. Steven only wants the best for Nicole, but how does a man warn his daughter of a likely impeding danger when the exterior of the threat is shrouded in a costume of wholesomeness?

The film takes another turn when David's dark side begins to emerge in spats of jealous rage and violence. His underside reveals a twisted psychotic mind that views Nicole as his trophy and everybody else as obstacles preventing him from maintaining possession of her. Anyone who poses a threat to their relationship, whether it's Steven or Nicole's friends, is not only disrupting his quest but Nicole's destiny, as well. We know the film's been building up to this, and Foley's acute direction makes David's behavioral transition plausible and unnerving. But, as aforementioned, Fear disappointingly dwindles down to a Straw Dogs-like conclusion with David and his gang terrorizing Nicole and her family in their intruder-proof home. (Yes, I groaned the second we were told of this supposed impenetrable fortress.)

The acting is positively first-rate. Witherspoon, who played the coming-of-age youth in The Man in the Moon, pouts convincingly and displays an appealing photogenic presence. Wahlberg is also very good as the sinister Mr. Wrong. Rather than relying on poses and transparent moodiness (the route Leonardo DiCaprio followed in last year's The Basketball Diaries, which co-starred Wahlberg) he delivers a full-bodied portrait of a dysfunctional young man who's become prisoner to his own tormented psyche. But the standout is William Petersen. He gives a dynamite performance as a father whose actions don't necessarily reflect his intentions. Petersen, whose work as tough-as-nails cops in To Live and Die in L.A. and Manhunter was highly commendable, is required to display uncertainty, paternal hurt, and raging anger while embodying it all into a warmly tender character, and he pulls it off without strain.

James Foley is an immensely gifted technician with his own unique flair for intelligent camera-batics who also possesses a strong character and story sense. He creates a highly-charged atmosphere of heated emotionalism and effortlessly sustains it by believing in the material he's been handed; Foley's no slouch -- he gives every film his all -- and by not acting superior to a script's weaknesses, he's able to dig around and unearth some unexpected bonuses, so the denouement of Fear doesn't play out in too perfunctory a manner, even though it is undeniably derivative. Also, the film has been lusciously photographed by Thomas Kloss, with Bud Smith's virtuoso editing keeps the suspense building at a consistent nail-biting level.

Fear is a grand entertainment that will thrill and move you all at the same time. A lot of thrillers attempt this kind of duality, but they fail by yielding strictly to the thriller aspects and abandoning the human core as a convenient springboard for the action. This film, however, proves that equal portions of character and suspense can result in a very potent mix -- and a helluva good time.

Well worth a rental.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=567&reviewer=327
originally posted: 10/19/07 11:38:20
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User Comments

12/29/17 morris campbell teenybopper fatal attraction 1 stars
10/20/10 Jeff Wilder Better than most thrillers of this type. 4 stars
10/21/07 mark madsen movie was very good 4 stars
6/21/07 movieman utter 1 stars
6/15/07 al smith very enjoyable,suspensful and underatted film 4 stars
6/13/07 mdillon26@cox.net I loved it. 5 stars
5/28/07 ab reese is so gifted! 5 stars
5/11/07 Dave very poor 1 stars
3/04/07 brad a very good thriller with killer rollar coaster scene man. 5 stars
1/01/07 ch a steamy good time movie with a hot reese witherspoon 5 stars
11/04/06 mp a very good suspense movie with good acting, could use more complations, awesome!!! 5 stars
10/29/06 kr a pretty good movie, good acting, suspense, and sense realism to it. 4 stars
10/09/06 carryn Movie was average but O.M.G Mark Wahlberg is the hottest thing EVER!!! 4 stars
8/18/06 patience11 I love everything about this movie, including the actors ,music and the suspenseful story 5 stars
8/13/06 becky a good teen thriller with good performances and hip cast 5 stars
8/12/06 m.p Every mother and father worst nightmare, this movie is edge of your seat and sexy!!!! 5 stars
8/12/06 cody a very good movie with good acting ,story ,and good music. rollarcoaster scene is hot baby! 4 stars
2/08/05 BGREWC To the one reviewer, maybe's it's a guy thing, but the rollercoaster scene is super hot. 3 stars
9/28/04 melanie Hubley Great movie 5 stars
5/29/04 john bale Some real suspense but predictable and finally rediculous 3 stars
2/18/04 me it was great 5 stars
1/14/04 Samuel a decent enough film 3 stars
1/14/04 LIAM JACKSON i'm protective of my girl,but i'm not as nuts as wahlberg.still a great film though. 5 stars
1/02/04 cindy real good movie 4 stars
12/19/03 alicia It was the greatest 5 stars
3/02/03 Jack Sommersby A terrible finale can't erase its above-averageness before that. Petersen is dynamite! 4 stars
3/02/03 !! A GREAT FILM 5 stars
1/15/03 jen sullivan markyy...it was my favorite movie hunny.. i have wanted u for about 8 yrs now..I LOVE YOU!! 5 stars
12/17/02 Amy I loved FEAR when it came out, and it is still a favorite today!!! 5 stars
12/03/02 Amanda Mark.....O baby what a hottie!!! 5 stars
9/22/02 Tasha I love this movie I wish that I could find pics of Mark from the movie. 5 stars
7/04/02 KMG My only FEAR is that Wahlberg will threaten to act again 2 stars
3/27/02 Megan liked it 5 stars
2/20/02 Hannah Duncan excellent mark whalberg is well sexy and reese suits him like mad. 5 stars
1/17/02 Gaby Mark Whalberg is awesome in this movie, considering the fact that it is his first movie. 5 stars
11/15/01 Glitz_Queen Rating says it all - and Mark Wahlberg is HOT!!! 5 stars
10/05/01 toni I love Mark Wahlburg, he was awesome in fear, this is the best movie ever made. 5 stars
10/01/01 Phoenix Anything that has Mark Wahlberg or William Petersen in it, is a good movie. 4 stars
9/16/01 I luv Mark Wahlberg My name sAYS it ll, I ish I was born w/ that name! Im changing it when i can! 5 stars
8/29/01 kate jones how sexy is mark wahlberg!!!!!!!!!!! 5 stars
8/26/01 Rebecca whalberg All he did wa love her! mayb a lil 2much.. I lv Mark! he is a sexy bitch! 5 stars
7/14/01 Amanda I love the flim i think they should have had a 2nd one but i think it was a great flim 5 stars
6/25/01 Meag I liked it.. it was pretty hot in some scenes and mark is very sexy. I though it was good. 4 stars
10/18/00 Elise I loved it. Mark Wahlberg was never sexier! 5 stars
10/16/00 Eugene Worth to see only if you like seeing Mark force Alyssa unto himself 2 stars
9/13/00 Boy In The Designer Bubble My sister had a crazy boyfriend. We liked him, he entertained us with his funny ways. 3 stars
5/14/00 Lauren Scheiterle obviously your not a teen me and i thought this was the best movie when we saw it 5 stars
2/06/00 Kyle Broflovski Stupid title. Completely by-the-numbers. Mark's okay, Reese is better. 3 stars
11/03/99 V. Worth it just to see Marky force Alyssa to smoke crack. 1 stars
6/15/99 Elisa Ryder This was a great movie. Mark Wahlberg does a good job of pleasing the audience. 4 stars
4/20/99 Tim Mark Wahlberg did do much better in Boogie Nights. The rollercoaster scene is sweet 4 stars
4/18/99 jimmy jam Pretty good. Alyssa is a slut what she won't do for a fuck, i mean BUCK 1 stars
4/10/99 Tristynn first time i saw it, I was scared..last 10 times i appreciate it.Mark is great.. 4 stars
2/17/99 Piz Wahlberg was very good here, teeny movie that entertains for a buck thirty 3 stars
11/25/98 Mr.Pink It's crap! But,in a stupid kind of way, also entertaining 3 stars
11/18/98 MinxxDaShorty The only good bit was the fingers on the rollercoaster!!!! Naw that was shit too! 2 stars
11/10/98 Enforcer Poor "thriller" with no tension and a slasher-flick imitative ending. 2 stars
9/17/98 Miss LILI A great, exciting movie.minimal suspense, BUT still..... 5 stars
9/14/98 Badass I am the only one in the world that liked this movie. I'm so ashamed. Well, not really. 4 stars
8/31/98 kooky sal God damned awful. Marky Mark sucked. 1 stars
8/29/98 Matt i think i just have a thing for stalker flicks 3 stars
8/25/98 Pete Bad movie. Bad, bad movie. A raunchy Alyssa was kind of watchable though. Reeoowr. 2 stars
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  12-Apr-1996 (R)



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