Primal Fear - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Primal Fear Reviews

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½ August 19, 2017
Though it often strangely feels like a television pilot, Primal Fear more than succeeds due to great characterization and acting, as well as a twisty and confident script.
July 7, 2017
Big name cast, story that keeps your interest and builds to the unexpected conclusion. Richard Gere is amazingly handsome and and Edward Norton give a tremendous performance. Worth seeing if you enjoy crime, legal drama.
April 26, 2017
Yes, it's derivative, but it takes you on it's own mysterious yet interesting path.
½ April 23, 2017
One of my favourite courtroom thrillers and a stellar debut by Norton.
April 21, 2017
This is a straightforward, entertaining thriller with unexpected twists, and an Oscar-worthy performance by Edward Norton.
April 18, 2017
Norton kills it and makes this the thrill ride it is.
April 4, 2017
This is a pretty well-crafted courtroom drama with an unpredictable plot twist. Also, it first introduced us to how great of an actor Edward Norton was and how great he was at conveying different moods.

After an altar boy is accused of brutally murdering a famous archbishop, his lawyer begins to realize that he has a split personality which causes him to do violent acts. He then has to perform the difficult task of pleading insanity to the jury.

This movie is a very good courtroom thriller. It brings its own twists and alterations to the genre and it makes for a pretty well-crafted movie. Although its storyline is pretty typical by today's standards, it is still a great watch because of the plot, twist, and acting.

The acting in this movie is very well-done. Edward Norton is able to sound like 2 convincing characters. His performance is well-done and it shows us that he can convincingly convey different emotions and moods. I also really liked Laura Linney's performance. She plays the role of a rude and nasty lady and her facial expressions and the tone of her voice often makes us hate her in several scenes involving the courthouse.

The plot twist at the end caught me off guard. I'm not going to spoil what it is but it's really well-done. It doesn't make the movie seem unrealistic and fanciful at all and it changes the movie immensely on your second viewing. The movie gave no nods or clues to it so it's extremely hard to be able to predict it. It comes truly as a surprise.

So in conclusion, this is one of the best courtroom dramas in the past few decades. It has a great plot and a great twist. But most importantly, it is the movie which first introduced us to Edward Norton and how great of an actor he was.
March 20, 2017
This movie is worthwhile only for Edward Norton's performance. The rest of it is a combination of plot holes, lazy screenwriting and wooden performances.
March 11, 2017
A pretty decent drama that feels like an old law show from the 90s though Edward Norton is great too
February 22, 2017
At first the movie is somewhat laughable due to cheesy dialogue and all too overplayed motivations-which is a fault of the script. But the actors do their best, Richard Gere and Edward Norton in particular. The movie ends up questioning a deeply philosophical belief. That people are basically good- something Martin Vail asserts near the middle of the movie. He needs to justify his life and career. He has spent his career defending criminals and low lifes and making lots of money and fame in the process. So he has to vindicate himself. He has to believe that he saves innocent people from time to time. His hopes rest in Aaron Stampler, a stammering teenager who's (allegedly) killed the archbishop of Chicago. SPOILERS follow. Martin Vail falls into the trap of letting his personal feelings get involved and actually comes to believe Aaron is innocent. However, as the movie progresses we find that not only is Aaron innocent, but he's not innocent. He appears to have multiple personality disorder. His alterego, Roy, claims responsibility. New plot twist. Though Martin successfully pulls off the idea of claiming insanity without pleading it, it's revealed that Roy actually doesn't black out and actually doesn't have any multiple personality anything. Turns out he's guilty and it was all an act. This performance was pulled off extremely well by Edward Norton, who played all of his character's motivations without giving them away. However don't let it distract you too much from Gere's. Gere here plays a kind of J.J. Gittes, disappointed in the same way Jake was at the end when he realized all his efforts were in vein and was told to forget about it. Martin was finally convinced he had been a 'good' person. He had done the moral thing and vindicated his career-his life. All ripped away and we see a disillusioned Martin walk away from the courthouse. He had been naive to believe that it was just good people who sometimes do really bad things. As Roy tells him when he posits there was no Roy "I thought you had it figured out. There never was an Aaron". This line, arguably the most important, rips apart Martin's naive philosophy. He had to fess up to the truth. They aren't good people who sometimes do bad things. They are bad people who sometimes do good things. And he's no better than anyone of em.
January 18, 2017
This was a pretty good film. I think at it's time it was very impressive. It still is in many ways, but there have been some even more thrilling films since then and so this pales in comparison to those in a way.
January 15, 2017
Edward Norton's performance is brilliant. Norton keeps you engaged even when the plot is slow.
½ December 29, 2016
The daring ending and stand-out performances easily make up for the many familiar crime-turned-court drama functions to result in a well done movie worth watching.
½ November 13, 2016
In his debut as an actor, Edward Norton is dynamite onscreen.
October 22, 2016
Richard Gere, Laura Linney, and Edward Norton lead an all-star cast in Primal Fear. Gere is Martin Vail, one of the biggest attorneys in Chicago. A case arises when an archbishop is brutally murdered. The defendant is an altar boy from the archbishop's church named Aaron (Edward Norton), who left the scene of the crime and is covered with bloodstains of the victim. Despite these circumstances Vail believes him to be innocent of the crime, particularly as Aaron seems to be have an innocent persona, incapable of such a heinous crime. He believes it so much so decides to take on the case for free.

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.

-10.22.2016
October 7, 2016
I started watching and never feel like finishing it. Unless it gets to be very good at the end, I was not impressed. I'll get to it someday.
½ September 30, 2016
Norton's the star here, but the script and direction should be commended for their straight to the point nature, even if some plot threads feel unfinished by films end.
½ August 31, 2016
Not as suspenseful as one would hope but still has like able characters, a terrific Edward Norton performance and an interesting enough story.
August 20, 2016
Great courtroom drama which will leave you smiling to yourself.
½ July 26, 2016
The last thirty minutes or so is incredible, full of great acting, suspense, shock and cinematic brilliance, but the movie, much like the Usual Suspects moves somewhat slow and not as intriguing as what the ending made it deserve to be. Edward Norton is definitely the best actor in this movie.
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