Take director Tony Scott, a pumping soundtrack, a crazed Robert De Niro and a still at that time bankable Wesley Snipes and you have an interesting mix right?

Well, not according to the critics, who took their turn in blasting this baseball-set psycho-thriller on its release back in 1996.

But, and let me get this out there straight from the off – I am not one of those critics.

In fact, having caught this flick on its initial video release back in the day (it received a scant, if any at all, UK cinema roll-out), The Fan has proved to be an annual staple for me, a ‘get myself excited for the start of the baseball season’ viewing that I stick in the DVD player each February.

Now I know what you guys may be thinking – I don’t like or have any interest in baseball, so why bother?

But The Fan is so much more than that and the simple truth is although if you dig the game there are lots of added angles to savour, a lack of knowledge or passion in no way hinders the driving force of the movie.

After all, surely seeing De Niro in full-on, bug-eyed crazy mode has to be worth a watch in any sane film fan’s opinion, no?

To cover the plot in a nutshell, De Niro plays Gil Renard (a knife salesman no less), a devout San Francisco Giants fan.

When the Giants decide to buy Bobby Rayburn (Snipes), Renard’s favourite player, the fan is in ecstasy as he feels this will be the move that brings glory to his side.

But injuries and a loss of form see Rayburn under fire, and Renard opts to go to gradually more sinister lengths to get his idol back to his former glory.

Surrounding the leads in this are a host of quality performers, from John Leguizamo as a player agent, to a then lesser-known Benicio Del Toro as a rival player and Ellen Barkin as a sports radio host.

But, despite the quality in the outfield it is very much the De Niro and Snipes show and boy do they run with it.

De Niro positively crackles with menace and his simmering tension keeps the film on a knife-edge for much of its running time (pardon the pun), while Snipes shows the emotional turmoil of an underperforming player extremely well.

Scott’s direction is as per usual, meaning you get the quick-edits, the ‘industrial’ feel and the fast pace, a mark of his work right up to his latter fare like Unstoppable.

And special mention also has to go to a stunning Hans Zimmer score, an emotional rollercoaster that gives me goosebumps every time I hear it.

The Fan is not a perfect film – far from it, and by the close it is borderline strike three as far as dodgy plot twists go.

But as a ‘vibe’ film, one which takes a different look at the world of sport, with amazing performances and a terrific soundtrack, this one is out of the park for me.

 

About The Author

Simon Fitzjohn

Simon is a journalism tutor in London, who also just happens to be a movie fanatic, with a craving for the darker side of cinema. He has written two books, one on the horror films of director Bob Clark (2014) and the other on the history of the character Norman Bates (2015). His third book, on the work of British exploitation director Pete Walker, is due in 2017.