One of the big twists in Martin Scorsese’s Cape Fear remake is that ex-con Max Cady (Robert De Niro) knows full well that his attorney, Sam Bowden (Nick Nolte), deliberately withheld evidence that could have spared Cady incarceration , at least reduced his sentence (via Film School Rejects).
Cady is walking away for 14 years after being convicted of raping and assaulting a 16-year-old girl. While he understands that the victim was known to be sexually promiscuous and that Cady did not know her age, Sam keeps these facts to himself because, having a daughter of his own, he is appalled at the brutality of Cady’s crimes.
With his violent disposition and propensity to stalk and hurt women, audiences have little reason to side with Cady. Technically, however, what Sam was doing as his attorney was against the law and could even be seen as grounds for his being barred from the legal system, or Cady getting a refund, or both.
Unfortunately for Sam, Cady has no interest in seeking legal revenge, and by the end of Cape Fear, Sam and his family are forced to flee the maniac. While fans can legitimately argue about which version of the film is better, Scorsese’s remake definitely gives viewers a reason to understand Cady’s quest for revenge at least a little bit better. Scorsese also scores points with another twist, which he achieved by recruiting Robert Mitchum and Gregory Peck for cameos throwing them at type.