"A great first two acts of a movie, and then a bad third act."
Two-thirds of "Fear X" are a quiet, atmospheric psychological drama whose dread-inducing style holds a viewer's interest even though the events unfold slowly. The cards are being laid out so masterfully that you're sure the film has a good hand. Alas, in the last half-hour, you realize it's been a bluff, and the resolution is painfully ordinary. The film doesn't live up to the expectations it produces.But for 60 minutes, what a swell ride! Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn, in his English-language debut, uses a somber, deliberate pace to tell the story of a man named Harry (John Turturro), a mall security guard whose wife was randomly murdered in the very mall where he works. The police cannot find the murderer, so Harry sets out to. Obsessively, he watches surveillance tapes, finding subtleties we wouldn't and patterns that may not exist. He also struggles with dreams, visions and hallucinations, all leading him to the house across the street from his, and thence to Montana in search of a woman who may hold answers.
There is a distinctly "Twin Peaks"-ish feel to everything, the sense that there's something happening beyond what we're seeing, and it's extraordinarily effective. The dialogue is vaguely stitled and unnatural, the performances just slightly off -- and it seems intentional. Refn (working from a script he co-wrote with Hubert Selby Jr.) wants uncertainty and moodiness, and he achieves it brilliantly.However, if there is no payoff, then it is all for naught. And there is no payoff. The discovery of the killer's identity is downright disappointing, and Harry's own realizations about things aren't nearly as momentous as he thinks they are. Turturro's performance is fine, to be sure, but there's nothing here. With a better third act, this would be a 5-star movie. As it is, it's three.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Edinburgh Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Edinburgh Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Sundance Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.