A high-profile slaying becomes the case of an ambitious attorney's career in this legal thriller based on the novel by William Diehl. Richard Gere stars as Martin Vail, a famed defense lawyer who volunteers his services to... more » Aaron Stampler (Edward Norton), a Kentucky teenager charged with the murder of a Chicago archbishop. Covered with blood, Aaron was captured after a foot chase broadcast live on TV, making a gleeful Vail certain that he could raise his profile by defending the obviously guilty suspect. Assigned to prosecute is Assistant District Attorney Janet Venable (Laura Linney), who is Vail's ex-girlfriend. Vail's case becomes more complicated than he expected when a psychologist, Dr. Molly Arrington (Frances McDormand) concludes that Stampler suffers from multiple personality disorder. Vail also uncovers evidence that the archbishop was involved in a corrupt land scheme and may have molested young parishioners. Now the cynical, opportunistic attorney is faced with a daunting prospect, a client who may actually deserve his best defense. Its shocking, twist ending made Primal Fear (1996) a big box office hit and earned Norton, in his screen debut, an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor.« less
"The archbishop of Chicago has just been brutally murdered and 19-year old altar boy Aaron Stampler (Edward Norton) is found running from the scene, covered in the man's blood. It looks like an open and shut case against the simple, stuttering boy, until dashing Martin Vail (Richard Gere), a self-proclaimed "big-deal lawyer," offers to defend him - pro bono. The prosecutor he'll be facing in the courtroom is none other than his ex-girlfriend (Laura Linney), who is still bitter about their past. With the help of a psychologist (Frances McDormand), Vail discovers a shocking secret about young Aaron that may save his life.
This is a great movie; I've seen it many times and it never gets old. Gere is perfectly cast as the handsome and confident charmer, and Edward Norton surely had one of his best roles ever as Aaron - and this was his first movie role. He is so charismatic that you will not be able to take your eyes off him. The search for the killer's motive is intense and surprising, with lots of opportunities for Gere to showcase his tremendous appeal. Highly recommended for those who like character-driven mysteries."
A more than solid thriller, with a twist
N. Durham | Philadelphia, PA | 11/05/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"When I had first laid eyes on Primal Fear on pay-per-view years ago I had first dismissed at as another Hollywood who-done-it courtroom drama with no originality. And was I ever wrong. Primal Fear may seem like something you've seen before, but the clever, highly intelligent, and twisting script makes the film soar to unexpected heights, and Edward Norton's breakout performace as murder suspect Aaron has to be seen to be believed (Norton would receive a Golden Globe and his first Oscar Nomination for Best Supporting Actor which Cuba Gooding Jr. ended up winning for Jerry Maguire). Richard Gere has the starring role playing Norton's lawyer who seems to be the only one who believes Norton's innocence. With a super twist ending and a superb all star cast which includes Laura Linney, Frances McDormand, Steve Bauer, John Mahoney, Maura Tierney, and Andre Braugher, Primal Fear is a near superb little gem that I strongly suggest seeing."
Why gamble with money, when you can gamble with people's liv
R. Kyle | USA | 12/19/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
""I don't have to believe you. I don't care if you are innocent. I'm your mother, your father, your priest." This is what defense attorney Martin Vale (Richard Gere) tells his client, Aaron Stampler (Ed Norton), as they are preparing to defend him against charges of killing the Archbishop of Chicago.
Of course, later, Marty says: "I believe in the notion that people are innocent until proven guilty. I believe in that notion because I choose to believe in the basic goodness of people. I choose to believe that not all crimes are committed by bad people. And I try to understand that some very, very good people do some very bad things."
So--which one is true? Nobody is quite what they seem in this legal procedural that will keep you in your seat and your finger away from the 'Pause' button for its entire 2 plus hours' duration.
First, you see the kindly Archbishop attended by a heavenly choir at a charity function. The city loves him. But, is his public face the same one he wears when he's all by himself with the altar boys?
Did bumbling, stuttering Aaron kill the Archbishop. Nobody really wants to believe it.
Does Janet (Laura Linney) truly tow the company line as the assistant prosecutor? Well, and is she truly no longer interested in Marty?
The plot's got more twists than a pretzel factory. I no sooner thought I knew what was going on or what someone was going to to when they changed it on me.
"Primal Fear" is one of the best written and acted courtroom dramas I've seen. My only question to myself is why the heck did I wait this long?"
Brilliant acting, story, everything.
sillyrabbit | 06/21/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Usually, I stay away from courtroom dramas because they're the same thing over and over, but this one truly is different. The story may seem a little familiar if you've seen films of this nature before, but I can guarantee that as you continue to watch it, you'll see how well this movie rises above the rest.Making his first major debut, Edward Norton is nothing short if terrific in the role of Aaron. He was robbed of the Oscar for doing the great job that he did throughout. Richard Gere has never given a truly bad performance, but he does go a step above his usually sleepy-looking acting style by showing some good raw emotion. Andre Braugher has always been a great actor and will continue to be a great actor, and Laura Linney shows that she's always been a fine actress (nevermind the miserable CONGO). The direction by Gregory Hoblit is great and fast-paced and I recommend that you take a look at Hoblit's FALLEN if you liked this film.I cannot rave enough about the acting here, so I'll just stop now, but first I have to end by saying that throughout this slick film, it never gets bogged down in pretentiousness, as many courtroom thrillers do. You'll love this film all the way up until the true shocker of an ending."
Ed Norton shines bright in his debut
Jenifer Shott (email@example.com | Colorado, USA | 09/06/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"What a vehicle for Norton to kick off a career with! A great story with well written characters and a plot twist to send you shivering! (We will ignor the presence of Richard Gere so we may enjoy the movie!) This is the movie that brought the style and sophistication of Ed Norton into my view, and now I'm a huge fan! I believe that Norton is the best young actor we have in Hollywood today. Once you see Primal Fear, you'll be compelled to run out and see American History X, Rounders, and even clench your teeth through Everyone Says I Love You and Larry Flynt, just to see this brilliant actor sparkle!"