When Appellate Judge Tom Becker fixes you with his stare, be prepared for The Mild Irritation!
Our review of The Fury, published August 31st, 2001, is also available.
An experience in terror and suspense.
The Fury is Brian De Palma's Chex Mix, a mash of once and future tropes and tricks dear to the director's heart, all swept together and housed in a resealable bag. It's a paranormal THRILLER about telekinetic teens; it's a paranoid THRILLER about government conspiracies; it's an action THRILLER with lots of chase scenes. The common thread? THRILLER. What is one thing The Fury lacks? Unfortunately, thrills.
We open somewhere in the Middle East, where Peter Sandza (Douglas) is vacationing with his teenage son, Robin (Andrew Stevens, 10 to Midnight). Robin, it seems, has some undefined psychic gift, and will soon be going to a school for the psychically gifted. The father-son afternoon idyll is interrupted by an impromptu terrorist attack. Peter's friend, shady government operative Ben Childress (John Cassavetes, The Incubus) hustles Robin out of harm's way, as the terrorists seem to be aiming for Peter. Peter escapes, but not before discovering that Childress was behind the attack—Childress wanted Robin for his telekinetic powers!
A year later, Peter is still searching for Robin, and he's being chased by Childress's secret government group. From his girlfriend, Hester (Carrie Snodgress, Diary of a Mad Housewife), he learns that another teen, Gillian (Amy Irving, Yentl), is also psychically gifted, just like Robin. Could it be that…there are two massively psychically gifted teens? And could they, somehow, be telepathically communicating?
Could be. But De Palma's film, while stylish and visually exciting, is such a muddle that many viewers will stop caring long before the explosive climax.
Because it deals with telekinetic teens, The Fury is often compared to another De Palma film, Carrie, though the two really have little in common. Carrie was a story of high school angst and outcastism with a spectacular twist that was, unfortunately, given away in the advertising. The story was slight, so De Palma could add playful, extraneous scenes (such as the boys picking out their tuxedoes) that fit the beats rather than distracted from them.
In The Fury, there's much more to the story, but somehow, De Palma gives us much less; extraneous scenes—and there are plenty—feel intrusive.
Part of the problem here is the casting of Douglas. No, he doesn't turn in a bad performance; far from it. The Fury is a welcome addition to his gallery of "Hey, look, I'm over 60, shirtless, and still sexy!" roles he did in the late '70s, including Saturn 3 and Rain of Fire. No, the problem is that his character, Peter, gets more screen time than he really should, and I can't help but feel that this was a way to keep "Name Star" front and center.
So, early on, we get an extended sequence concerning Peter's search for his son and the bad government people trying to track down and presumably annihilate Peter. It's a fun sequence that involves Peter taking an unpleasant family hostage, donning a disguise, and engaging in a superbly rendered car chase with a bizarre ending. The only problem is, all this really has nothing to do with the story of the telekinetic teens or the evil agency that wants to use their talents. It's a lot of filler, and it's tonally off.
In his review of an earlier release, Judge Patrick Naugle notes a scene in which Gillian, a virtual prisoner of a psychic school affiliated with the bad guys, escapes. Once she gets out, there's a fairly long sequence of her running while Douglas shoots people—all done in slow motion. What Judge Naugle charitably failed to mention was the scene leading up to this, in which involves a Lucy Ricardo-style plot to spring Gillian, with another character loudly announcing things like, "I'm going to town. I have all this stuff to take to town. Ooops! I dropped something! Let me pick up the things I dropped." If the upshot wasn't to merely create a diversion and get the door open so Gillian could make a break, this might not be so bad.
While scenes like this aren't without merit—and again, De Palma films much of this arrestingly—they tend to take away from, or lose altogether, scenes that might help the film's cohesion.
For instance, we never learn much about the powers of Gillian and Robin. We do know that in times of stress, they can make people bleed, and in times of real stress, they can cause significant damage.
What, exactly, is the shadowy government secret agency's plan for these kids? Sure, the idea of achieving world domination by causing Leonid Brezhniv to bleed from his eyes is rife with appealing possibilities, but the actual plan seems awfully vague. Also vague is the psychic relationship between Gillian and Robin, something that might have been at the center of the story, but instead takes a weird turn that's not as well explored as it should be.
In the end, The Fury is just too slack and disjointed to register as a horror/suspense film. Good performances and some exciting visuals can't compensate for the lack of urgency in the narrative and the low quotient of scares.
The Fury (Blu-ray) comes to us from Twilight Time. Typical of this line, we get a solid looking 1080p transfer that features good contrast, nice blacks, and natural looking colors. There are two DTS-HD audio options, a 4.0 and a 2.0; the former is the stronger. Supplements are limited to an isolated score track, a trailer, and a booklet with another excellent essay by Julie Kirgo.
I know there are people who consider The Fury to be De Palma's masterpiece, or one of the great, underrated films, but I just don't see it. It's an OK diversion, but it's awfully slow going for the pay off.
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