The Fan (1996) – Blu-Ray Review

The Fan was sandwiched between two of Tony Scott’s most successful films of the ’90s, Crimson Tide and Enemy of the State. It’s probably his least-seen films from that decade, but far from his worst (that’s clearly Days of Thunder, which is dire, no matter how much Tarantino tries to frame it as a Sergio Leone film with Formula 1 cars… I love you, QT, but just no.) The Fan is to King of Comedy what Enemy of the State is to The Conversation: films that harken back to their more acclaimed predecessors by using the same star in a somewhat different take on the same characters.

Robert De Niro plays a obsessive fan of the San Francisco Giants, which has just signed Bobby Rayburn (Wesley Snipes), his favourite player, for 40 million. He has a troubled home life and work life, and to some extent finds some solace in his obsession. However, as you can imagine he goes too far to get close to his favourite player, and it has murderous consequences.

While it’s certainly one of Tony Scott’s weaker films, it’s interesting to think the ’90s was really when Tony flourished, while his more acclaimed brother Ridley struggled. Thelma & Louise was the only film Ridley made during this time that is still talked about… well, except for White Squall, but that’s just because QAnon people are quoting it! Tony was turning them out from Revenge onwards, and minus the aforementioned Days of Thunder, his films were always rock-solid. He also made his best film, True Romance, during this time. The mid-‘00s were also a wonderful time for Tony’s films, when he became one of the most aesthetically radical filmmakers of his era with Man on Fire and Domino, both of which just threw the directing rulebook out of the window. But while The Fan is a decent film, and has an exciting pace that never really lets up, the ending is a little too neatly wrapped up.

De Niro is fine—he isn’t totally phoning it in, but his heart isn’t 100% in it. He is having some fun, but you know he is delivering far from what he is capable of. This film was made after Casino and Heat back to back, and it shows on him. Wesley Snipes is perfectly good as the somewhat arrogant player, but John Leguizamo totally steals it as his agent. Ellen Barkin tries her best with the underwritten part of the female sports journalist navigating this testosterone-fuelled world she inhabits. Benicio del Toro is fine as the player Snipes is in conflict with, especially over the fact they both want number 11, as both players have a long history with that number. Jack Black, who was still basically a bit player in action or drama films at the time, has a little part as a radio technician. High Fidelity was still a few years off for him, the movie that set him on the career path in comedy that he now travels. He was one Tony’s go-to actors for these bit parts—he had one in Enemy of the State too, and was deleted from True Romance.

Scott, who was a master of the well-made high-concept action thriller, is having a great time here, I don’t know how much he cared about baseball, except for his trademark pink baseball cap. It’s still pretty entertaining, and has such gratuitous use of the back catalogue of The Rolling Stones that Scorsese must have been like, I really can use “Gimme Shelter” in every film now. De Niro’s character is just as obsessed with the Stones as he is about baseball, maybe a knowing wink to Scorsese? De Niro’s character also claims he partied with the Stones multiple times, which you suspect is some wish fulfilment on the character’s part.

The disc only contains a stills gallery, whereas the German release from Turbine includes two short featurettes and some short interviews (all under two minutes), German and US trailers, and a US TV spot. It’s a shame that Signal One couldn’t license these to create more of a complete package, but it’s a film that doesn’t really gain a huge amount from extras.

★★★

Ian Schultz

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