In Cape Fear, we find “evil” in the character of Robert de Niro threatening the family romance by tempting its teen-age daughter with sin (sexuality, smoking dope etc.). He is the stranger, the threat from the outside that throws the hegemony of the family unit apart or besides itself in a diabolical way (diabolos means “throwing apart/aside”).
It is the work of the devil for which the character of Nick Nolte atones in one of the final scenes at Cape Fear as he is portrayed stigmatized, hands bleeding and all. The melodramatic impact is amusing, to say the least.
The analogy between Nolte’s character and Christ is only too obvious in Scorsese’s version of the movie (I have not seen the original and I don’t know whether it occurs there as well). In taking on the sins of his daughter, Nolte’s character safeguards her virginity and the Holy Family and, by extension, American family values and its innocence spoken in the name of God. Amen!
Like all values, these are values worth defending, they are even worth killing for, be it in the name of freedom, democracy, or God.
Scorsese, Martin, director. Cape Fear. Universal, 1991.