The Fan Reviews
A slick thriller directed by the camp Tony Scott. Yes it has all his flashy nods like plenty of rock n roll tracks, fancy lighting and glossy sequences but at the same time its very insightful. The whole idea of looking into the obsessive, delusional almost addictive human behaviour when it comes to sports and a mans love for the game.
De Niro is a knife salesman, right off the bat that doesn't sound like a sound occupation. He has a stressful time with his ex-wife who's trying to keep him away from his son, he loses his job and to top it all the new major signing for his fave baseball team is playing badly. And he really likes this new player.
The problem is De Niro's character has an over the top obsessive love of the game, his home team and the new star signing. He thinks he can change their fortunes almost, he used to be a player so he thinks he knows everything and how players should play, he gets easily carried away at games, easily upset, disappointed with the results and performances he's seeing and basically starts to lose it. Of course this is all perfect for De Niro as portraying a man on the edge, a kooky lunatic slowly growing more and more angered with his situation is right up his alley.
The way we see him with his son at the game shouting profanity at the field and the people around him, getting more and more agitated and scaring his son. Its really quite uncomfortable to watch and makes you feel almost sorry for him whilst at the same time kinda awkward or embarrassed. I'm sure many of us have seen real people like this at real games, it can be a nasty situation if it developes into something further. De Niro nails this beautifully with his famous scowls and 'you lookin' at me' looks.
The story here is of course exaggerated and goes to a much darker place, although I'm very sure there are folk out there that are this crazy about their sports. Maybe not to this degree though. It doesn't feel too realistic though as De Niro's character seems able to get close to these big time sluggers very easily, at bars, in the stadium, at their personal homes, in gyms etc...surely it would be hard to do this generally. The way he manages to confront Del Toro's character and do what he does, plus get away with it, is also pushing the boundaries of believeability.
The fact De Niro's character is a knife salesman seems a bit forced also, that's like 'what's one of the most dangerous yet easily assessable/concealable things a salesman could sell without raising much suspicion and use effectively to kill'. Would be too obvious if he sold guns. It kinda gives the game away straight away about what he's gonna do doesn't it. The whole development of the story is really predictable if I'm honest, you can see what's gonna happen a mile off and De Niro has done this type of role a few times before. But its De Niro's acting that keeps you hooked plain n simple.
Its all about De Niro (trying not to say his name in every sentence here), Snipes does a solid job as the big shot new signing with the weight of the world on his shoulders but you watch for De Niro's psycho. The film is covering old ground a lot really as we've seen Snipes do all this before also in 'Major League'.
Thing is you feel for De Niro's character at the end, he's just a guy trying to be with his kid, teach him about his love for the game of baseball whilst maybe having a shot at his dream too. He's not a bad guy really, he didn't intend for it to happen the way it does, he's almost forced down that route by circumstance and people's attitudes. End of the day you can see both sides of the coin for the two main characters. These big players wouldn't be where they are without the fans, none of the team would be, so the players do have to play for the team and for the fans, they owe it to the fans to do their best and show appreciation for their support.
On the other hand a player should ignore everything that goes on with the fans because as Snipes' character says, when you're hitting they love you, when you're not they'll spit on you, the fans are a fickle bunch. So yes a player should really play for himself to a degree, do what he thinks is best and strive to achieve his own goals, but you will always need the team, two sides.
This doesn't seem to be one of De Niro's more popular films and admittedly it's not at the top of De Niro films, but I think it was a pretty good performance, we see him go from your ordinary guy to psyhcopath in a short escalating time. The film does have slightly drawn out moments but is a passible Thriller.
Bobby Rayburn (Wesley Snipes, pre-tax problems and associated outrageous claims, pre-R.C.-has-a-personal-bias-against-him-for-appearing-in-a-series-of-films-that-turn-an-interestingly-psychotic-character-into-a-cool-badass) is a heavy hitter recently traded to the San Francisco Giants for a $40 million contract. This excites lifelong Giants (and baseball in general) fan Gil Renard (Robert De Niro), who is on his last legs as a knife salesman in a company begun by his father but traded into different hands to value value over quality. Gil is also on poor terms with ex-wife Ellen (Patti D'Arbanville-Quinn) over custody of their son Richie (Andrew J. Ferchland), mostly regarding poorly kept appointments, an issue with his job, as well. When Rayburn begins to falter thanks to an injury, the player the team replaced with him begins to rise, Juan Primo (Benicio Del Toro, still riding along in accent-heavy supporting roles). When failed sale after failed sale--partly encouraged by the decision to attend the opening day game and run the risk of missing an appointment--leads to the loss of his job, and the same decisions lead to his neglectful approach to taking care of his son and thus the legal removal of custody, Gil buries himself in support for Rayburn. Overhearing conversations, Gil decides the problem is Primo, and confronts him. Lost in a world that he barely had a grip on in the first place, Gil's obsessions with baseball, the Giants and Rayburn takes him into dangerous and violent territory.
What's magnetic and fascinating about this film is the way that Bobby and Gil are portrayed. There's a greater complexity and reality to them than is usually given in most thriller-styled movies. Rayburn is an arrogant git to be sure, but he's a good player and a reasonable guy. He's a loving father and he does what he can to earn his keep, but is "not nuts," as Gil points out, for taking the salary he does. Gil is especially complex. He's not a simple psycho, nor is he a misunderstood simpleton. Gil is not stupid, but he does not understand or empathize with other people. If I had a psychology degree of any kind, I'm sure I could tell you exactly what sort of disorder he is exhibiting. He values important things, though, at least in principle. His frustration with his father's knife company comes from his expertise in the art of knife-making, but he fails to recognize the world--and thus the company, since it exists in that world--has changed. He values his son, and values imbuing in him the principles that he holds dear. He talks baseball up, and tells lies about knowing Mick Jagger (silly Gil, the version of "Start Me Up" that appeared on Tattoo You was not recorded in 1978, nevermind that you weren't there!) and other similar things. He obfuscates his own past and the importance of the knowledge he has, imparting the wisdom of his former teammate "Coop" as regards baseball.
What's important in making the film work is that Gil's son Richie does not outright fear nor fearlessly love his father. He shows signs that he wants to follow and appreciate him, while maintaining that childlike willingness to occasionally say things that are abrasive and abrupt. He tries to emulate his father even as he shows that he does fear him in places. Gil shows how poor he is at recognizing these things, but Richie continues to want to earn his father's approval anyway, even as Gil's temper easily rears its head. Gil's obsession is realistic and acceptable, so far beyond the pale it's extremely uncomfortable to see, yet perfectly real in this context, and utterly believable. This is the kind of role that De Niro is best suited to: a man with serious anger issues who is not particularly aware of them. The way he loses himself in a role, he does not so much subdue his own character as he manages to make us realize just how much the character onscreen is unaware of his own, well, craziness. Travis Bickle, Rupert Pupkin, Johnny Boy, Noodles--they are all characters who are shocking in their relative depravities, even if they might be placed in a way that we sort of root for them. They are antiheroes, to be sure, and we feel sympathy for them because we know they mean well and are just incapable of recognizing the real world and their position in it.
This, of course, is really the point. Scott's films tend to get middling acceptance--"well-produced but brainless fluff," characterizations of that nature tend to stick to them quite thoroughly. But it's about Gil, and it's about Bobby, about living up to absurd expectations and the different ways that people perceive a collective image or idea like baseball. It's life to some ("better than life," Gil says at one point, "because it's fair.") and it's a game to others, like Bobby. Bobby, despite his distance, despite not being as closely involved with his son, is the better father, not just wanting to care but actually doing so. Of course, it's the isolation--however self-inflicted--that so thoroughly ruins Gil's grasp on reality. Bobby has his agent, Manny (John Leguizamo, who was still working very bland characters in mainstream film, supporting and smaller roles), who supports him even in the downtimes and through personal trauma and professional. While he may be doing it for money, there's clearly at least some regard for Bobby as a human behind it.
This is a very solid examination of obsession, managing the right low-key approach to many of the things Gil does (thanks, in no small part, to De Niro's note-perfect performance), while not at all suggesting the actions involved are minimal in their effects. They are normal to Gil, and the film follows things primarily from his point of view, showing how he thinks that he's doing the right and acceptable things, while everyone else clearly sees the danger--albeit, perhaps, not clearly enough.