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With: John Turturro, Deborah Kara Unger, James Remar, Stephen McIntyre, William Allen Young, Eugene M. Davis, Mark Houghton, Jacqueline Ramel, Sharon Bajer, Nadia Litz, Robert Huculak
Written by: Hubert Selby Jr., Nicolas Winding Refn
Directed by: Nicolas Winding Refn
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 91
Date: 03/19/2013

Fear X (2005)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Pictures of You

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

It's a rare movie that holds back information, allowing the audience to get inside it and ask questions about its strange universe. But Nicolas Winding Refn's Fear X is one of those movies. The film stars John Turturro as Harry Caine, a mall security guard who becomes obsessed with finding his wife's murderer.

The murder was captured, however muddy and distant, on the mall video camera. Like another version of Antonioni's Blow-Up, Harry studies the tapes, makes digital pictures, and studies them, looking for connections and clues. He becomes obsessed with a house across the street from his home, breaks in and finds a strip of film that leads him to Montana. Once there, his path crosses with that of a cop (James Remar) and his wife (Deborah Kara Unger).

The point of the film is not what happens or how it happens, but more abstract questions like "why?" Harry is not interested in catching his wife's killer or in getting revenge, but in simply asking why he did it. As the film builds, director Refn skillfully allows Harry to get both closer and farther away form his goal, like an optical illusion or a search for perfection in an imperfect universe.

A strange group of people came together for this story. Turturro gives an uncharacteristically internal performance, forgoing his usual tics and grandstanding for a portrait of a man who has hardened his soul. The cinematography is by Larry Smith, a former camera operator for Stanley Kubrick for the past several decades (Barry Lyndon, The Shining, Eyes Wide Shut), and his gliding, dreamlike work is unmistakably Kubrick-esque. The incredibly spare musical score is co-composed by art-music guru Brian Eno, and the screenplay was co-written by Hubert Selby Jr., that scribe of unrelenting addiction, sleaze and depression ( Last Exit to Brooklyn, Requiem for a Dream).

Danish-born director Nicolas Winding Refn makes his English-language debut here, and if nothing else, he shows an unerring eye in selecting his talent and the restraint to make it come together.

It's difficult to explain Fear X, not only to avoid giving the plot away, but also because so much is left up to interpretation. No doubt the film's ending will leave most viewers with a "huh?" impression, but it's a hugely intriguing experience.

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