August 17, 1996 -- Generally, I'm not fond of psychological thrillers, but this one isn't bad. Of course, it helps to have one of the greatest living actors, Robert De Niro, in the film.
De Niro plays Gil Renard, a baseball fan whose personal life is falling apart. When Renard is forbidden by a court order from seeing his own son and loses his job, he goes off the deep end.
He becomes obsessed with Bobby Rayburn (Wesley Snipes), a star baseball player with the San Francisco Giants. Renard sees in Rayburn a man much like himself, a hard-driving perfectionist with a son about his own age.
Rayburn is having his own troubles. Deep in a slump, he gets into a fight with another player who has his "lucky number" 11 and won't give it up. Renard sees the fight and ends up killing the other player so that Rayburn can have the lucky number.
Rayburn immediately breaks out of his slump and starts hitting again. Soon after, Renard, who has been watching Rayburn at his beach front home, rescues Rayburn's son from the surf and gets into Rayburn's house.
When Rayburn confides in Renard and tells him he is no longer a perfectionist, that he is hitting better by relaxing and taking the pressure off himself, Renard feels betrayed. He feels Rayburn doesn't appreciate what he did for him. He kidnaps Rayburn's son in a sick attempt to get respect from Rayburn.
This sets off a violent chain of events that leads to the film's final climax at the ballpark. The parallels between the two men make the film more interesting than a typical psychological thriller of this type. De Niro is excellent and Snipes is also convincing. Major leaguer John Kruk also has a minor supporting role.
I really didn't think the climax quite lived up to the rest of the film after all the buildup, but it was O.K. The production values are first rate. The cinematography, by Dariusz Wolski, is excellent, and the soundtrack, with lots of great Rolling Stones songs, is very good. This film is a cut above average for its type. I rate it a B.
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