In Canton, Mississippi, a fearless young lawyer and his assistant defend a black man accused of murdering two white men who raped his 10-year-old daughter, inciting violent retribution and revenge from the Ku Klux Klan.
Samuel L. Jackson
A retired FBI agent with psychological gifts is assigned to help track down "The Tooth Fairy", a mysterious serial killer; aiding him is imprisoned forensic psychiatrist Hannibal "The Cannibal" Lecter.
When Aaron pushes Martin Vail against the interview / interrogation room wall in the jail you can see that the wall bends, showing that the wall wasn't made out of bricks or any other hard material. See more »
[to Martin in a southern accent, while in the solitary confinement room]
If you lay that tough-man shit on Aaron again, I will kick your fuckin' ass to Sunday!
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The birth of a star and the resurrection of another
It's not often that viewers get a chance to watch a star being born - that a talented unknown actor's performance that is so spectacular it leads to the A-list in one role is rare: Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, Brad Pitt in Thelma & Louise to name a recent few. But Edward Norton's turn as the "defendant/victim" in Primal Fear is one of those "Wow" moments that leaves the audience salivating for his next performance. In this feature debut, Norton outdistances his role, as does Richard Gere, in a resurrection no less impressive than Norton's star-making turn. Heretofore, Gere has specialized in assorted intelligent professional cad roles. Here, he gets a chance to inhabit one that not only wears his dubious character on his sleeve, but wears it, drives it, drinks it... revels in it. Yeah, sure somewhere there's a heart of gold, but like his client, the layers on top serve him better, and the heart of gold is tarnished. Gere is at his peak, comfortably, cheerfully inhabiting the role.
Laura Linney deserves extra credit for often being the ice-queen foil which propels the two male characters' development; her own character is rather one- dimensional, but she herself squeezes as much dazzle as she can from it. Even though everyone else obviously falls for whatever Gere's Vail purrs into their ears, it's merely enough time for Linney's Janet to get a drag on her ubiquitous cigarette; another step in what will (hopefully) someday be film's love affair with her. Wasted, sadly, are fine character actors like John Mahoney, Steven Bauer, Maura Tierney & Andre Braugher who could have lit up the screen had they not been handed scripts with generic character stereotypes.
See it to watch the ascension of Norton and Gere.
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