Primal Fear Reviews
The prosecutor Janet Venable (Linney), believes this is an open and shut case, but knows that she has to be on her toes as her and Vail have quite a history. The two constantly play a chess match with each other throughout the film, despite the fact they somewhat feel for each other romantically. As the investigation begins, disturbing evidence comes into play that involve scandal and corruption with the archbishop. Vail uncovers that the State's attorney (John Mahoney) and real estate moguls lost millions of dollars due to the archbishop refusing to build property on church grounds. He also discovers the archbishop was involved in filming sex acts between woman and his altar boys. As this investigation unfolds, a psychiatric evaluator Dr. Arrington (Frances McDormand), uncovers that Aaron has multiple personality disorder. This diagnosis is due to Aaron's abusive past with his father, and scandal uncovered with the archbishop. This reveal gives the audience, and all the characters a completely different set of eyes on the entire case. Despite this discovery, Vail cannot now plead insanity as this would change his plead and be grounds for him being disbarred. Vail has no choice, but to try and lead the prosecution into this same conclusion.
Primal Fear was a riveting court room drama. The dark under tones of the film, the new evidence that keeps unveiling throughout the film keeps the audience guessing. Edward Norton was excellent and earned a well-deserved Oscar nomination for best supporting actor. His ability to be the innocent and somewhat slow-witted Aaron, and then transform into the dark, violent and angry persona Ray was incredible. The film does a great job balancing politics, the law, and the emotion in this murder case. The film also adds a morality aspect to the film as you begin to question if one can truly execute a person who is insane. Gere provides one of his best performances and is an excellent lead. You root for him as he looks for ways to find the best in people and strive for justice in a case that has all the odds against him. Some of the tangential characters and paths that Gere investigates as part of the corruption element are the only aspects of the movie that drag the movie down a bit. The characters are what really sell this story as all of them are convincing. I truly believed Gere was a hot shot attorney, and his was in it for the morality and not for the money. Norton's troubled past, and stutter made him quite a convincing and innocent character. The tension between Linney and Gere added a respectable element to the film. Primal Fear is worth watching for Edward Norton's performance alone. The story, cast and direction certainly build on top of this, and Primal Fear is one of the better court room dramas.
What appears to be an open and shut case when an altar boy is seen bloody fleeing the scene of a crime that led to a dead priest is anything but obvious. A defense lawyer takes the case for no money with a point to prove, but shortly after entering his plea, he realizes there is more to this case then he could have ever imagined and he may have stepped on a landmine from the very beginning.
"I haven't seen this many lawyers and politicians together since this morning at confession."
Gregory Hoblit, director of Fallen, Hart's War, Fracture, Untraceable, Frequency, Class of '61, Roe vs. Wade, and NYPD 2069, delivers Primal Fear. The storyline for this picture is outstanding with some wonderful twists and turns and great character development. The cast delivers outstanding performances and includes Richard Gere, Laura Linney, Edward Norton, John Mahoney, Andre Braugher, and Joe Spano.
"Why gamble with money when you can gamble with people's lives?"
My best friend in college always adored this picture and I had seen it before and had to see it again for the first time in a long time. I had forgotten how great this film is. Norton is excellent in this film and it is great in a Fight Club/Usual Suspects kind of way. This is a very underrated thriller that is a must see and borderline worth adding to the collection.
"You want justice, go to a whore house. You want to get fucked, go to court."