Newcomer Edward Norton became an instant movie star in 1996 with three amazing performances in Primal Fear, The People vs. Larry Flynt, and Everyone Says I Love You. Make that four amazing performances, because in Primal Fear he plays a young man named Aaron Stampler whose personality seems to be divided in two: one tough and cynical, the other shy and fearful. Richard Gere plays Martin Vail, the slick Chicago attorney who defends Aaron on charges of brutally murdering an archbishop who may have sexually molested Aaron and other boys in his parish. The courtroom suspense is nail-biting as the jaded hotshot Vail comes to care about the case and the defendant. This is one of the better legal dramas of recent years, with plenty of juicy twists and turns. Frances McDormand (who was soon to win an Oscar for Fargo) plays a psychiatrist. --Jim Emerson
Spotlight customer reviews:
Customer Rating: Summary: Nicely constructed thriller that serves up the goods... Comment: The worst thing I can say about `Primal Fear' is that it plays out like an extended episode of `Law & Order'; but that being the worst of it is really not so bad. I actually enjoy a good episode of `Law & Order', and beings that this follows the `SVU' pattern of process (which happens to be my favorite variation of the `Law & Order' franchise) I am really quite impressed with this film. It isn't perfect, and there are a few plot holes that take away from the films credibility, but it is nothing so immense that it remains unforgivable. No, `Primal Fear' is actually well crafted and splendidly acted to the point where its faults are easily overlooked.
The film tells the story of Aaron Stampler, a troubled young man who was found fleeing the bloody aftermath of the archbishop's murder. Aaron, who served as an alter boy, claims to have blacked out after seeing another man standing over the archbishop's body. He doesn't remember a thing aside from the fact that he didn't do it. Hotshot lawyer Martin Vail takes on Aaron's case free of charge, seeking the attention the high profile murder case will bring to his career. What Vail gets is not as cut and dry as many felt it would be, and he finds himself stepping further and further down a road complete with numerous twists and turns.
I am not a huge fan of Richard Gere, but he is utterly flawless in this film. His charisma is perfectly suited for this role, and he tones it down enough to give us a glimpse into the inner fears of this man. Laura Linney, an actress I am eternally smitten, also delivers, but not as strongly as she usually does. She comes off a tad too rehearsed for me in scenes. Maybe it's just that she lacks chemistry with Gere, and so he makes her look bad by acting so much better around her. Frances McDormand doesn't have that problem (is she ever `bad' though) as she bounces off Gere and Norton brilliantly. Alfre Woodard and John Mahoney are also splendid in their supporting parts, bringing so much swagger and grace to their respective roles.
But this movie belongs to one individual; Edward Norton.
As Aaron, Norton brilliant shifts from innocent ignorance to brutal defiance. He manages to make his characters twitches and emotional weight seem natural and most importantly, relevant. We bleed for him, cry for him, shiver for him and in the end we believe in him. This may be one of the greatest screen debuts of all time (right up there with Whoopi Goldberg). Edward Norton has turned into one of our generation's greatest working actors, and this film is where that all began. Just watch those eyes, manipulating and calculating and pleading all at the same time. He is everything he needs to be and everything we need him to be, and he accomplishes this effortlessly.
In the end I will highly recommend `Primal Fear'. Yes, it could have tightened things up a little in certain areas, but what it does give us is a very nicely constructed legal thriller that will please any fan of the genre. If you are a lover of `Law & Order' then this will satisfy your desires; but in the same respect, if you are often turned off by the legal courtroom drama's then this is not the film for you. Customer Rating: Summary: As Good As It Gets Comment: First the cast - who is better than Ed Norton at playing a mentally challenged person ( see The Score ), Richard Gere is certainly one of the best, and Andre Braugher while not a household name is great, plus Laura Linney, John Mahoney, and Maura Tierney. Second - the plot is fantastic and that is the correct word but you have to see it right to the very end to understand why. If you haven't seen it, buy it, rent it, borrow it, steal it, but don't miss it. Customer Rating: Summary: Great movie; great transaction Comment: Wonderful, quick and easy transaction. Quality product received in perfect condition, and very quickly. I'm totally satisfied with this transaction and would not hesitate to buy from this seller again. Customer Rating: Summary: Wonderfully Tense with Great Performances Comment: This is one of the best "lawyer" movies you'll ever see with fabulous performances by Richard Gere, Laura Linney, Frances McDormand and an absolutely Academy Award level performance by Edward Norton.
Sit back and enjoy!
Customer Rating: Summary: movie that made Edward Norton a star. Comment: this is the movie that made Edward Norton a star in Hollywood. watch his Oscar nominated performance as an alterboy accused of murder.