Starring: Robert DeNiro, Wesley Snipes, Ellen Barkin, John Leguizamo, Benicio Del Toro, Chris Mulkey
Director: Tony Scott
Director, Tony Scott has brought us some of the more exciting thrillers of the nineties – ‘The Last Boyscout’ and ‘True Romance’ for example and he has also scored with the successful ‘Crimson Tide’. With a track record like that, it makes you wonder why he has made such a dreadful job of ‘The Fan’.
Gil Renard (DeNiro) is a hunting knife salesman whose business morals are the cause of much chagrin to his employers. When he loses a big account, they give him the sack and plunge him deep into depression. He has also lost access to his son after his estranged wife becomes fed up with his unreliable antics.
All his problems stem from his unnatural obsession with baseball and in particular, his favourite team’s new signing, Bobby Rayburn (Snipes). His move to The Giants is the cause of much resentment when it is revealed that he is being paid $40m. But Gil is a vocal fan and often calls a local radio show, hosted by the cynical Jewel Stern (Barkin), to defend his favourite player. And when Rayburn’s form dips and the crowd are getting on his back, Gil goes to great lengths to help him restore his place at the top.
Tony Scott attempts to develop the two main characters separately. Gil is at odds with the world from the very beginning. He objects to the poor quality of the knives he is selling and tries to point out that his father made great quality knives when he started the business only to be told that quality is not important. He comes across as obsessive and dangerous and controls his son in his attempts to make him Gil MkII. He always wanted to be a big baseball star but never made it and now he can only dream as he watches his idols every week. He believes that the fans are the most important thing.
Rayburn is the egotistical, unfeeling superstar. His main motivation in life is fame and fortune. He plays for himself, not for the fans. His one human love in life is his young son, Sean.
Gil encourages Rayburn from the sidelines when the rest of the crowd boo the former star but decides to take a more active role in Bobby’s life when he pinpoints the teams other prima donna, Juan Primo (Benicio Del Toro – ‘Usual Suspects’) as the cause of Bobby’s pain. Bobby ends up benefiting from Gil’s pursuits but does not bargain on what is to come.
This movie is a real mess. It’s hard to explain the feeling that you get but it’s like watching an 80s TV movie. The accompanying soundtrack (bar the excellent Rolling Stones interludes) is awful and totally undermines stars of the magnitude of DeNiro and Snipes. The performances are decent enough – Snipes plays his best role for some time and DeNiro never struggles. It may be the fact that DeNiro could play this role with his eyes closed that is one of the main failings of ‘The Fan’. Perhaps they should have chosen a lesser known actor who might have brought a lot more reality to the movie.
The main problem though is that DeNiro’s character seems to follow extremes for, what seems like, no reason at all. It really makes you wince. Worth mentioning the token appearances here from Ellen Barkin and John Leguizamo who plays Snipes manager.
Overall, a rather pathetic movie.