Fear X

Director: Hubert Selby Jr.

Denmark-U.K.-Canada| 2003. Colour. Anamorphic. Dolby digital stereo. 91 mins.

The drug-addled urban paranoia of Hubert Selby Jr. (Last Exit to Brooklyn, Requiem for a Dream) gets transposed to the flatlands of Wisconsin and Montana with intriguing results in Fear X, a supremely elegant, meditative thriller scripted by Selby and Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn (Pusher, Bleeder). The title suggests a more abstract Memento by way of Blow-Up, Blow Out, The Conversation and other movies about an increasingly obsessive quest for an increasingly unknowable absolute. The story follows Wisconsin security guard Harry Cain (John Turturro in a superb performance) as he tries to piece together the identity of his late wife’s murderer. Apparently an innocent bystander to a planned hit gone awry, Harry’s wife was one of two people gunned down in the parking lot of a shopping mall—the same mall where Harry happens to be employed.
Taking the investigation into his own hands, Harry exhaustively studies the black-and-white surveillance videos from the mall, documenting the hours leading up to his wife’s death. But truth is much too slippery to let itself get pinned down by audio-visual records. It continually wriggles out of Harry’s grasp, leading him on a pursuit from Wisconsin into Montana and on the trail of a decorated local cop (James Remar, whose wearied face seems tattooed with the worry of unforgivable wrongs) and his wife (Deborah Kara Unger), who may have crucial information about the case. The cat-and-mouse game that ensues between Turturro and Remar is a decidedly woozy one, in which Refn and Selby gradually strip away the token genre elements until the film begins to function on an almost purely psychological level, leaving us uncertain as to who exactly is the cat and who the mouse.—

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