I’m an admiring fan of Brian DePalma, and have seen many of his flicks. THE GREAT: ‘Carrie’ (1976), ‘The Untouchables’ (1987), ‘Carlito’s Way’ (1993), THE GOOD: ‘Mission Impossible (1996), ‘Snake Eyes’ (1998). THE NOT SO GOOD: ‘Mission to Mars’ (2000),’The Black Dahlia’ (2006), among others. Somewhere along the way, this particular flick never registered with me as being one of his. I recently came across mention of it in an article about ‘The Scariest Movie Psychics’ and thought “Hey, that could be a cool flick.” So, after hunting a copy down, I was pleasantly baffled when ‘Directed by Brian DePalma’ capped off the opening credits. Even his shitty films carry his trademark style traits (the dramatic slow-mo, the music-heavy climaxes, the gore etc) so I was curious to see what he brought to this story.
Set in the late 70s, the flick opens with government agent ‘Pete’ (Kirk Douglas), and his teenage son ‘Robin’ (Andrew Stevens) on a beach, in Israel. In what appears to be an Arab terrorist attack, Pete is believed killed in a boat explosion, as his son is whisked off to ‘safety’ ie kidnapped. Unknown to the traitorous fellow agent who orchestrated the ‘attack’, ‘Pete’ has survived the blast, and is now on The Hunt to get his ‘gifted’ kid back. Fast forward a year, and we meet a naive teenage girl named ‘Gillian’ (a gorgeous Amy Irving) who is beginning to demonstrate powerful telekinetic/psychic abilities. So powerful is her latent power that it easily takes over in times of stress and tense emotions, resulting in messy facial hemorrhages in the people on the receiving end. Scared and confused, ‘Gillian’ (pronounced with a ‘hard’ G) seeks out an exclusive research institute in hopes that they may be able to help her stop going all ‘Rogue’ on the people around her. While there, she psychically comes into contact with ‘Robin’, who was held there for a period of time, post-kidnap. Along the way, ‘Pete’, who is now being pursued by his duplicitous ex-partner, ‘Childress’ (John Cassevetes), and a group of agents, comes to believe that ‘GIllian’ is the key to finding where his son is being kept. Gradually, the two stories merge.
This is a surprisingly effective and entertaining flick by DePalma, with him showing off, with some damn impressive loooonnnnnng ‘single-take’ scenes and great use of crowds and locations. It’s certainly not perfect (what movie is?) but the ‘Pros’ certainly outweigh the ‘Cons’ here.
In the Pros department, the cinematography was top-notch, the acting (especially by Douglas and Irving) was great, and the violence was, at times, shocking. The way the ‘psychic attack’ scenes were staged and edited was inspired and, more than once, genuinely creepy.
On the Cons side of the fence, the flick sometimes didn’t seem to know what ‘flavor’ it was. We’d go from a scene of intense drama and cringe-worthy violence to something strangely light-hearted and comical (the hostage-taking of a bickering couple comes to mind).
Something else that didn’t help, and I can’t believe that I’m writing THIS, was the overly grandiose score by composing God John Williams. It did the film no favors. Now, I love ALL the work that Williams has done with Steven Spielberg over the years, and that may have something to do with my distaste for him as the choice for THIS flick. I found the VERY Spielbergian-sounding score to cheaply distract from what could’ve been a dark and sinister story, given the subject matter and the majority of the presentation.
Something else I would’ve liked to have seen was more of the kidnapped teenager ‘Robin’. Given what happens to him in the 3rd Act, some more dimension would’ve gone a long way to help explain certain behaviours that violently show themselves when we catch up with him. When he ‘Tetsuo!’s the fuck out, we really don’t know why. It’s chalked up to ‘Oh, he was just too powerful and, as a result, he’s an asshole now’.
Speaking of ‘character dimension’, I have to come back to the casting of Ex-Mrs. Spielberg Amy Irving. She was a great choice for the role of ‘Gillian’, with her delicate features and mesmerizingly huge green eyes (which DePalma wisely exploits). I genuinely felt for the character as she fights to come to terms with what she’s capable of, while also finding that even the world right in front of her can hold dark, ominous secrets. Plus, she was a sexy lady (her opening bikini shot…wow!) who could seemingly turn a natural vulnerability into an effectively sympathetic performance. I can see why Spielberg eventually slapped a ring on her hand, albiet temporarily. But I digress.
All in all, ‘The Fury’ is an entertaining and competently constructed sci-fi/ government conspiracy thriller that, at times, get’s confused by it’s own tone and is marred by a lack of ‘flesh’ from certain characters. All the elements are there to make this story a hard dramatic tragedy (Much like DePalmas own ‘Carrie’,) with a sci-fi/horror slant, but instead it ends up somewhat undermined by key elements. The ‘tragedy’ is there…it’s just more ‘watered down’ than it needed to be. For any fans of DePalmas work, this one is a ‘must see’. For everyone else, if you like expensive thrillers from the late 70s, this one works nicely.
*’The Fury’ also boasts an awesome and messy ‘Human Explosion’, shown in detail not usually seen. ‘Blah-SPLAT!!!’ Just saying.