Dennis Hopper did not receive Oscar nomination for portraying Feck in River's Edge.
Dennis Hopper plays one of the few adults in the film and is just as disturbed as the kids. Hopper plays Feck a hermit who also acts as the local drug dealer for the local kids. Feck is a strange man who does not mind greeting someone at the door while brandishing a gun, telling them openly that he murdered a woman and referring to his sex doll as a person. Dennis Hopper is definitely not a stranger to playing unhinged characters but this performance has a very different feeling then his earlier work in Apocalypse Now and Blue Velvet. Hopper internalizes the derangement of this character and gives quite an intriguing portrayal.
Hopper is excellent in portraying the mess of the man that is Feck in his early scenes when one of the teenagers come by to buy drugs from him. Hopper mixes up the man flawlessly inter splices the different sides of his troubled psyche. Although everything is insane about him Hopper is very natural in his performance as the shut in. In his initial scene Hopper weaves a portrait of Feck's derangement as he seems slightly amiable as he welcomes one of the teenagers but at the same time still threatens with his gun. Hopper is perfectly disconcerting as he makes Feck with an oddly warm personality that all the while still always has the threat of being completely deranged at the same time.
Hopper plays each side brilliantly while keeping such possibilities in every scene. Hopper never outright explains what exactly is the deal with Feck yet he creates a very compelling portrait of the insane individual. There is nothing simple about him. It would be easy just to play him as just insane but Hopper gives him such a depth of character. Hopper has Feck an insane man but a very lonely insane man. Feck's best friend is a sex doll he acts is alive and Hopper even brings a complexity to this relationship showing his insanity in this regard as something he does for a need to try to cope with his horrible situation.
Although it is a given fact from his first scene that Feck is a murderer, Hopper strangely makes him the moral center of the film. Hopper importantly distances Feck from the kids as Feck does not have that emotional distance the teenagers have. The difference is especially notable and quite fascinating once the murderer John (Daniel Roebuck) hides out in Feck's home. They both have murdered women John treats it as nothing to him rather something he just did, Hopper though is incredible showing Feck's murder as something that truly haunts him all the time. Feck's a murderer and Hopper does not shy from that in his performance, but Hopper always emphasizes in a bizarre poignancy that Feck felt the murder unlike John.
The scenes shared by Roebuck and Hopper are easily the best as they interact with their conflicting personalities even though they share the same horrendous deed. Hopper is absolutely great in these scenes portraying Feck as having a most unusual reaction to John. On one hand there is a warmth he brings that is very strong portraying once again that Feck to try to deal with his loneliness will reach out to even to John's hollow soul. On the other hand though Hopper builds in Feck a slow building very quiet disbelief in Feck as John consistently shows no remorse. Hopper is amazing as he pour so much emotion into his portrayal of the way John's soulless outlook tears him apart as Feck's murder is something he could never forget.
Hopper's single best scene comes after Feck has murdered John and he explains why. Hopper is so beautifully somber in the scene as Feck mourns the death of John as well as he slowly explains that he had to kill him as John's behavior was impossible to understand even to a fellow murderer. Dennis Hopper completely realizes this character and there is not a moment to be disbelieved. Hopper somehow brings the whole mess that is Feck together in his performance. Not only does he realizes his character's conflicting behavior into a cohesive whole he also gives an honestly sympathetic performance as Feck that stands as a powerful contrast to the emotionally distant performances by much of the cast particularly Daniel Roebuck.