A consistently superior ’90s thriller, Fear follows Reese Witherspoon’s Nicole as she falls for Mark Wahlberg’s rebellious David and embarks on a relationship that concerns and upsets her father (William Petersen’s Steve). It’s an exceedingly familiar premise that’s employed to consistently (and increasingly) engrossing effect by director James Foley, as the filmmaker, working from Christopher Crowe’s screenplay, delivers a briskly-paced and uncommonly captivating narrative that’s heightened by stellar performances and an ongoing emphasis on electrifying sequences (eg Steve disastrously confronts David) – with, in terms of the former, the picture benefiting substantially from the stirring work of its various actors. (Witherspoon and Petersen are typically solid here, to be sure, but it’s ultimately Wahlberg’s unabashedly smug and smarmy work that stands as a continuing highlight.) There’s never a point, really, at which it’s not entirely apparent where all this is going – the dog’s fate is sealed the second he saunters onto screen, for example – but Fear does, regardless, manage to pick up some serious momentum in the buildup to its exciting and oddly action-packed final stretch. The end result is a better-than-expected endeavor that admittedly does end just a little too abruptly to entirely satisfy, and yet Fear is, for the most part, a top-tier entry within a genre that’s gone woefully out of style as of late.

***1/2 out of ****

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