Combustible Celluloid Review - Fear (1996), Christopher Crowe, James Foley, Mark Wahlberg, Reese Witherspoon, William Petersen, Amy Brenneman, Alyssa Milano
Combustible Celluloid
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With: Mark Wahlberg, Reese Witherspoon, William Petersen, Amy Brenneman, Alyssa Milano
Written by: Christopher Crowe
Directed by: James Foley
MPAA Rating: R for strong graphic violence and terror, sexuality, language and drug use
Running Time: 97
Date: 04/12/1996

Fear (1996)

2 Stars (out of 4)

Nobody Else

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Teen Nicole (Reese Witherspoon) lives with her dad and her stepmom and goes to a normal high school with her friends Margo (Alyssa Milano) and Gary (Todd Caldecott). Heading to an illicit, sleazy bar for lunch one day, Nicole sees David (Mark Wahlberg). Later, she meets him at a dance club, and they hit it off; he seems gentle and decent, and she begins to fall for him.

They kiss and make love, but when David spots Nicole hugging Gary at school, he snaps and begins thrashing on Gary. Nicole tries to dump her new boyfriend, but he's very persistent, and it seems that has a few dirty tricks up his sleeve. Not to mention that he has a terrifying dark side, and a murderous streak that eventually endangers Nicole and everyone around her.

Director James Foley had previously made some excellent, stylish films, including After Dark, My Sweet (1990) and Glengarry Glen Ross (1992), and his work with actors was always exemplary. Here he gets just below the surface of his two leads and coaxes strong, believable performances from both Wahlberg and Witherspoon. They click onscreen together, and the mounting terror is emotionally believable. William Petersen (later on "CSI") is also excellent.

However, the movie as a whole never really rises above the conventions of this "creepy boyfriend" genre. There was more at stake in earlier examples like Fatal Attraction (1987) and Cape Fear (1962 and 1991), and this one feels too little, too late. It's a little too shallow and mean. Despite the strong performances, it feels as if it were callously made for naïve teens that had no prior concept of this kind of story.

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