Having recently watched and enjoyed the first two Blade films, we Goblins are in a bit of a Wesley Snipes frenzy. So when we saw The Fan, starring Snipes and Robert De Niro, for a couple of quid in CeX we couldn’t resist. But we were unfortunately reminded, once again, that neither is sign of guaranteed quality.
I’ll admit that the fact this starred Snipes made me automatically assume it would be an ass-kicking action film, presumably with a big set-piece taking place around a giant and very dangerous-looking fan. Unfortunately it refers to a baseball fan, Gil (De Niro) who takes out his frustration at the misfortunes in his life on pro player Bobby Rayburn (Snipes). It straddles an awkward line between sports film and thriller, not really succeeding at either.
The focus is on Gil from the start, as he takes the child of his estranged wife to a baseball game and fails miserably in his sales job, with him not actually meeting Bobby until some way into the film. In the meantime there’s a whole lot of baseball. Bobby plays baseball. Gil watches baseball. Gil’s kid plays and watches baseball. Which is all rather uninteresting if you have no interest in baseball or, indeed, don’t know the rules. Before I watched this I thought a baseball bat was something you kept beside your bed in case of burglars. Who knew it has another use? It doesn’t have to be this way. I have no interest in boxing but I enjoyed Rocky and Raging Bull, but The Fan fails to be a compelling sports drama. So this leaves the thriller side which is equally mishandled.
This aspect of the film fails because the first half of the film is just loads of boring baseball scenes that completely fail to set the mood. The many scenes of Gil dealing with his work and family life are equally unconvincing. By the time he does anything interesting in respect of his victimizing Bobby it’s already been going on for ages. We’re also not given any reason to like Gil. We can be made to like, or at least sympathise with, a character who does awful things, but we have to be given reasons to like them, and at least think it’s reasonable that they’re upset. Gil is shown being angry from the start, shouting at work colleagues and clients in his job as a knife seller, and being a neglectful father, abandoning his child at a baseball game and giving him a knife. We’re made to dislike him to such an extent that we think it’s good his wife gets a restraining order against him, and thus don’t sympathise with his subsequent anger.
If you’re going to have someone who’s crazy and dislikable from the start, it would have been better to show it from Bobby’s perspective, so at least there’s someone to relate to. Snipes gives a competent performance, but De Niro perfects the disgusted turtle grimace he’s worn in every film since. Throw into the mix some terrible music and you’ve got a film that certainly doesn’t make it to third base. Not a fan.