Primal Fear (1996) - Plot Summary Poster


Plot Summary

  • 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>
  • When a young man, Aaron, is charged with the horrific murder of Archbishop Rushman, hot-shot Chicago lawyer Martin Vail takes on his defense at no charge. Aaron was a homeless street kid before he was taken in by the Archbishop. He's shy and speaks with a stammer. Vail is convinced that Aaron is innocent but after discovering a video that shows Aaron may have had good reason to want the Archbishop dead, he begins to question that conclusion. When Aaron lashes out at the psychologist examining him another personality, Roy, is revealed. With the trial already underway, Vail cannot change Aaron plea and so has to find a way to introduce his client's condition. Aaron has something of a surprise for him as well.

    - Written by garykmcd
  • Martin Vail left the Chicago DA's office to become a successful criminal lawyer, that success predicated on working on high profile cases. As such, he fights to get the case of naive nineteen year old rural Kentuckian Aaron Stampler, an altar boy accused of the vicious bludgeoning death of Archbishop Rushman of Chicago. The story that Aaron tells Marty is that he, abused by his father, was in the room when the murder was committed by a third party, a shadowy figure he did not see, before he blacked out, which commonly happens to him. Not remembering anything during the blackout period, he awoke covered in the archbishop's blood, his fright the reason he ran from the police. He also states that he had no reason to kill the archbishop, who he loved as the father he wished he had. Marty doesn't care if he is guilty or innocent, but needs to know the truth to defend him adequately. Unlike the rest of the world, Marty does believe his story, he who hopes he can use Aaron's general appearance of being an innocent to his advantage. The powerful state attorney, John Shaughnessy, who Marty has had many a moral run-in, wants a first degree murder conviction and the death penalty in this case. He appoints to the case Janet Venable, who still has bad feelings toward Marty, an ex-lover, their six month relationship which ended badly. Although the case looks to be a slam dunk for Janet, her career may be made or broken by its outcome. In building his case, Marty comes across some major pieces of information, some pertaining to the Archbishop himself, and one uncovered by Dr. Molly Arrington about Aaron, she a psychiatrist hired by Marty to assess Aaron's mental state. These pieces of information as a collective pose a problem for Marty in how to mount a credible and legitimate defense for his client. It is more of a moral dilemma for Marty if only because he believes the life of a young man, who he believes in, is at stake.

    - Written by Huggo
  • An arrogant, high-powered attorney takes on the case of a poor altar boy found running away from the scene of the grisly murder of the bishop who has taken him in. The case gets a lot more complex when the accused reveals that there may or may not have been a "third person" in the room during the murder. The intensity builds when a surprise twist alters everyone's perception of the crime and what really happened...

    - Written by Kerm <kerm@psu.edu>
  • An altar boy is accused of murdering a priest, and the truth is buried several layers deep.

    - Written by Anonymous


Martin Vail (Richard Gere) is a prominent, cynical defense attorney in Chicago who loves the public spotlight and does everything he can to get his high-paying clients off crimes they commit on legal technicalties...

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