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Gil Renard (Robert DeNiro) is a failing salesman for a hunting knife manufacturer. He claims that he "played a little ball" until his arm gave out, and now spends most of his free time obsessing about baseball. His is a second generation obsession. His father, so he says, moved the family from New York to San Francisco to follow the Giants baseball team. Gil would pass this love down to his son, if he could. He and his wife (Patti D'Arbanville-Quinn) suffered a messy divorce, one in which the lawyers are still involved. There is a new man in her life, and the son slips once in a while and calls him "dad."
Gil lives his life by the ideal of "team spirit." That, sometimes, a sacrifice must be made to help the team to win. In this case, the sacrifice is that of a "normal" life in favor of that of the ultimate fan whose support for the team can only help it to victory.
For unknown reasons, Gil is obsessed with the "$40 million man," Bobby Rayburn (Wesley Snipes). A superstar returning to his home town. To the public, he's at the top of his form. Privately, he knows the end is coming. He wants the money, he could care less about the crowd. All he cares about is his son.
Rayburn goes into a slump almost immediately, when he can't get his "lucky number 11" on the back of his uniform. Coincidentally, Juan Primo (Benicio Del Toro), the player wearing "11" starts a red hot streak. When, on a radio call in show, Rayburn tells Gil that "maybe a guy like you could solve the problem" (sic), Gil takes it upon himself to do so. He tries to negotiate a deal with the player, in a hotel steam room, speaking of team spirit and sacrifice. After that, things start to cook.
The performances by Snipes and DeNiro are well defined and well played. In the latter's case it is a stellar portrait of a breakdown, and not the expected "DeNiro as psycho" routine. The problem is that to set it all up, by my watch, takes an hour ten minutes out of the two hour (or so) running time of The Fan. But it feels longer. Almost as if knowing this, director Tony Scott dumps in as much music as he can; the four good Rolling Stones songs ("Sympathy for the Devil," "Start Me Up," "Shattered" and "Waiting on a Friend") work to underscore another obsession, but they are mixed so high up in the soundtrack that they become overbearing. Yeah, yeah, that too is a symbolic thing.
In general, Cranky liked The Fan. But it was interesting to hear the reactions of the audience as we walked out of the theater. For the most part the men, especially the teens that were there, were pumped. The women were not, mentioning the overly long set up time and a resolution riddled with holes. The story isn't leaky, but the resolution is a visual mess. The theorists out there can talk all they want about the confusion and mayhem leading up to the finale, but to the myself and the people I was with, it was just confusing.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. If Cranky could set his own price for THE FAN, he would pay....
Yep, there are "chick
flicks" and there are "man movies" (though if any of you
can come up with a better tag, please let me know. The Fan is the
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