The Fan (1996) – An all star baseball player becomes the unhealthy focus of a down on his luck salesman.
I originally posted this way back in August, and only a couple of people saw it. I figured I’d give it a makeover and re-post it, since this is a project I’ve neglected and will have time for now the IMDb stuff is disappearing.
As part of my Robert De Niro project I’m working my way through the great mans films. The Fan is one of my personal favourites, maybe that’s because I feel it is not really considered great by that many people……..on a huge budget it did poorly at the box office and wasn’t enjoyed by critics or movie goers, but yet for some reason I absolutely loved it. Mainly because De Niro puts in one of the best and most terrifying performances I have ever seen.
The Fan is about a man named Gil Renard (Robert De Niro), a struggling knife salesman and a temperamental divorcé who has been neglecting his responsibilities, namely his young son and his job which he is on the verge of losing due to poor sales. Gil has a fervent loyalty to his favorite sport, baseball, and his favorite team, the San Francisco Giants. Gil is obsessed with the Giants’ newest player, Bobby Rayburn (Wesley Snipes) and as Rayburn goes through a slump at his new team, Gil considers a teammate of Rayburn’s, Juan Primo (Benicio del Toro) is the reason for this slump and decides to take matters into his own hands. From shouting at his own son, stalking and saving Rayburn’s son from drowning to ultimately taking lives and kidnapping, we witness a man on a total meltdown who has no limits.
The Fan shows De Niro at his most dangerous and tragic. Gil Renard has similarities to his Max Cady & Travis Bickle characters but on closer inspection, Renard is a unique character. Travis Bickle may well be a sociopath, and Max Cady a cold-blooded killer; but Gil Renard is a man who was just never able to get a handle on his life and has allowed his obsessions to dictate the choices he has made along the way.
De Niro is helped out by a more than decent supporting cast. Wesley Snipes has never been better. I’m not really a huge fan of his, but in this role despite being a bit of an ass at the beginning, towards the end I really felt sympathy for him and his characters journey. He auditioned originally for the Gil Renard role, glad that never turned out! Benicio Del Toro is solid as always playing the rival baseball star, and whilst not on screen too much, his interaction in the sauna especially with Renard was excellent, and thats the point of no return for De Niro’s character and we see just how far he is willing to go. John Leguizamo plays Rayburns manager, quick talking and all about the money but he plays the role well. Finally Ellen Barkin plays a host of a sports phone-in show who comes into contact in her own way with both Rayburn & Renard.
It is not perfect by any means, with the ending being the one thing I would love to have been different, I just felt it was very exaggerated and out of character even for a man as desperate as Renard. Had anyone else played this role I can’t see them bringing the intensity that De Niro brought to it.
In closing, De Niro’s performance in The Fan really is superb and elevates this film from being a mediocre sports drama, becoming one of my personal favourites purely down to watching him play this character. Topped off with an incredible soundtrack, The Rolling Stones featuring heavily, and my favourite scene of De Niro singing along to Shattered is hands down one of the best and creepiest things I have ever seen. If you have never seen The Fan I highly recommend it despite what box office numbers and more professional critics say! It’s dirt cheap to buy on DVD and it seems to be on TV here in the UK at least once a month on some channel, so please check it out if for no other reason than to see a master like De Niro at work.
I’ve included some quotes which really sum up the anger bubbling under the surface on this character, even just doing simple things like doing a sales call and driving with his son.
Gil Renard: [listening to a Rolling Stones song on the car radio] I remember when Mick recorded this in ’78. We had a wild party afterwards.
Richie Renard: Jason Pelligrino’s dad says Mick Jagger’s gay.
Gil Renard: [angrily] Well, Jason Pelligrino’s dad takes it up the ass!
Gil Renard: You sure I can’t interest you in any of this?
Jefferson Sporting Goods Clerk: You got any kayaks?
Gil Renard: You gotta be outta’ your fuckin’ mind, “kayaks”?
Jefferson Sporting Goods Clerk: I could use kayaks.
Gil Renard: Stanley, what the fuck do kayaks have to do with knives?
Jefferson Sporting Goods Clerk: Never mind.
Gil Renard: You fuckin’ asshole, “kayaks” you’re asking me about, when I’m asking you about knives?
Jefferson Sporting Goods Clerk: Yeah. Ok, I understand, sir. Thank you for coming in.
Gil Renard: How about you take some kayaks and stick ‘em up your fuckin’ ass, ya moron.