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252 user 84 critic

Primal Fear (1996)

An altar boy is accused of murdering a priest, and the truth is buried several layers deep.

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(novel), (screenplay) | 1 more credit »
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Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 10 wins & 11 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
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Dr. Molly Arrington
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Bud Yancy
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Tommy Goodman
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Joey Pinero
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Abel Stenner
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Martinez
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Archbishop Rushman
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Naomi Chance
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Alex
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Jack Connerman
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Storyline

Courtroom thriller about a slick, hotshot lawyer who takes the seemingly unwinnable case of a young altar boy accused of murdering an eminent catholic priest. Written by Jonathan Broxton <j.w.broxton@sheffield.ac.uk>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

Sooner or later a man who wears two faces forgets which one is real. See more »


Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for brief grisly violence, pervasive strong language and a sex scene | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Country:

Language:

|

Release Date:

3 April 1996 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Iskonski strah  »

Box Office

Budget:

$30,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$293,515 (USA) (26 July 1996)

Gross:

$56,059,267 (USA) (16 August 1996)
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Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Color:

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Alfre Woodard's role was originally written as a 60-year old White male. See more »

Goofs

The blood at the scene of the murder (where Mr.Vail comes in some days after the murder), and the blood on Aaron's sneakers, shown in the court, should be brown, because some time has passed and blood coagulates. When blood coagulates it turns from red to brown. See more »

Quotes

Judge Miriam Shoat: [to Marty Vail] You are making a mockery of my courtroom and I'm not going to allow it. I suggest you start representing your client and stop representing yourself.
See more »

Connections

Referenced in The Adam and Joe Show: Episode #1.3 (1996) See more »

Soundtracks

Lacrimosa
from Requiem
by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (as W.A. Mozart)
Performed by Wiener Sängerknaben (as Wiener Sängerknaben)
Courtesy of Capriccio
by arrangement with Source/Q
See more »

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User Reviews

 
The Smartest Guy In Town
27 September 2008 | by (Buffalo, New York) – See all my reviews

Although Richard Gere has one of his juiciest roles in Primal Fear, the best performance by far is that of Edward Norton who got the film's only Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor in a stunning debut picture. It's the kind of debut that any player would like to make and the trick is to keep up a high standard you've already set for yourself. Which Norton to his credit certainly has in his career.

But as to Gere he plays Martin Vail, a top criminal defense attorney who will let everyone know it if they haven't figured it out. It's a tricky part because a guy this arrogant has to maintain some kind of surface likability or else you'd never believe he'd ever win a case in front of a jury. As for movie viewers they must have a rooting interest for him as well. But Gere's definitely a guy who they make lawyer jokes about.

A young altar boy has murdered the archbishop of Chicago, a mush mouth kid with a Kentucky twang played by Edward Norton. He's part of a choir of street kids that the Chicago archdiocese shows off on many an occasion. It was a particularly brutal murder, multiple stabbings and the carving of a cryptic message in the chest of the deceased.

Gere makes no bones about it, he's wanting this case because of the headlines it will bring him. But when F. Lee Bailey or Johnnie Cochran offers to defend you for nothing, you don't ask questions.

Which brings us to Norton who has you might have gathered is not all he seems. He's a street kid and he's used to getting over on people himself. It's one of the darkest characters ever done on screen, maybe a bit too dark for Academy tastes. That might have been the reason that Cuba Gooding beat out Norton for Best Supporting Actor with his much lighter role in Jerry Maguire.

One in this film you will notice are Laura Linney as the Assistant District Attorney who Gere was once involved with and is getting a lot of pressure to bring in a guilty verdict for understandable political reasons. I also liked Alfre Woodard as the very patient judge at Norton's trial and Frances McDormand as the psychiatrist who examines Norton.

If you think you've figured out what's behind Primal Fear, rest assured you haven't from this description. Let's just say everyone gets good and played here.

Which brings to mind the dedication for this review. Gere's attorney character is likable, but arrogant. Back in the day I knew an attorney who was arrogant without any real reason for the arrogance. He'd love to have been Richard Gere, I'm sure he saw himself that way. So to you Ron D'Angelo this review is dedicated to.


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