I first watched The Fan a few years ago, at the suggestion of a (now ex-) boyfriend. This weekend, I decided to sit down and take the movie in again. The Fan stars Wesley Snipes as Bobby Rayburn, an MLB star slugger, as well as Robert DeNiro as Gil Renard, a knife salesman and baseball fan who is absolutely obsessed with Rayburn.
Bobby Rayburn has just signed a $40 million contract with the San Francisco Giants — a development that has garnered a lot of scrutiny regarding whether Rayburn actually deserves such an exorbitant salary. Rayburn covets the jersey number 11, which is currently worn by teammate Juan Primo. However, Primo has his own long history wearing the number and is unwilling to give it up so Bobby can wear it. Rayburn’s performance as the season gets underway, meanwhile, is less than stellar, and fans grow critical of his contract.
Gil Renard, meanwhile, finds himself in conflict with his ex-wife, and when he leaves their son alone at a Giants game to attend a sales meeting, his ex obtains a restraining order against him. Shortly thereafter, Gil also gets fired from his job after threatening a client. These events send Gil into a tailspin, and his obsession with Bobby Rayburn intensifies. Gil begins stalking Bobby.
Believing that Rayburn’s struggles are due to not being able to wear his favorite jersey number, Gil decides to confront Primo himself. Primo shows Gil his shoulder, branded with the number 11, and says that it is his number. A struggle ensues, and Gil stabs Primo to death. Bobby Rayburn is suspected of the murder, at first. Nevertheless, his performance on the diamond improves, and Gil believes that what he did benefited Rayburn and the Giants.
While stalking Rayburn at his home on the beach, Gil rescues Rayburn’s son, Sean, from drowning. Bobby Rayburn, of course, is grateful to Gil and invites him into their home. Gil convinces Bobby to play catch with him on the beach, and in the conversation that follows, Bobby says he stopped caring about the game after Primo’s death, because he realized there were more important things in life. He also tells Gil that he has lost respect for the fans, remarking on their fickle nature. Gil takes offense to these comments, believing Bobby is ungrateful for the favor Gil has done for him in killing Primo.
Gil kidnaps Bobby’s son, Sean, and in a tense phone conversation between the two, Gil directs Bobby to his freezer, where Bobby discovers the patch of Primo’s skin with the number 11 brand. The movie climaxes in a showdown between the two men on the baseball diamond, in the midst of a downpour.
This film is definitely more appealing as a thriller than as just a baseball movie. I enjoy thrillers, so I find that I like this movie quite a bit. If that is also your cup of tea, then you might find The Fan an appealing option. If you’re looking for a true baseball movie, however, maybe skip this one.