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Primal Fear
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Reviews & Ratings for
Primal Fear More at IMDbPro »

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102 out of 108 people found the following review useful:

Meet Edward Norton

Author: tfrizzell from United States
25 November 2000

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Outstanding thriller on par with "The Usual Suspects", "Primal Fear" is an impressive film about one lawyer's (Richard Gere) yearning for the spotlight. He gets his wish after an archbishop is brutally murdered in Chicago. It appears that choir boy Edward Norton (in his first film, Oscar-nominated) is the killer, but there is more to this case than meets the eye. In the end, Gere is going to learn that what he thinks he wants (fame and fortune) is not all that great because of what he has had to go through to get there. "Primal Fear" was one of the more interesting films of 1996, but was ignored by almost everyone. Richard Gere does some of his best work ever. Laura Linney, John Mahoney, Alfre Woodard, and Frances McDormand are all good in supporting roles. However, it is Edward Norton who proved to be the discovery of the 1990s. He keeps the audience on their toes and he adds depth and emotion to a film that would have looked much different if he had not been in it. 4.5 out of 5 stars.

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126 out of 162 people found the following review useful:

Edward norton does an excellent job

Author: Daniella smith from new york, new york
9 November 2004

I had just gotten done seeing the movie Fight Club when a relative of mine said " If you like that movie, you'll like Primal Fear." I didn't believe him, because I had believed that Fight Club was the best movie on the face of the planet. Well, he just so happened to have a copy of Primal Fear with him. I watched it and was amazed. I was speechless.The movie has so many twists! I was convinced that it was one of the best movies I had ever seen. Gere's performance is average. I say this because it seems that in many movies he plays the same cocky character. Linney's monologue in the courtroom is mesmerizing . It was just great. And Norton? Well this may be one of his best performances ever. The fact that this was made during the starting of his acting career was unbelievable. It was a great film and Edward norton does an excellent job

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99 out of 114 people found the following review useful:

The birth of a star and the resurrection of another

Author: petra simpson from United States
8 May 2004

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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96 out of 116 people found the following review useful:

Not just another court room drama

8/10
Author: Philip Van der Veken from Tessenderlo, Belgium
26 January 2005

I was convinced that "Primal Fear" would be the type of courtroom drama that Hollywood seems to use to pave the streets with. You know what I mean: Someone gets wrongly accused of some mischief, he can't pay a lawyer, but of course there is one who is really interested in the case and he is prepared to defend the poor guy anyway. The defender finds some wholes in the police investigation or in the statement of the other party and knows to prove the innocence of his client and even get a big indemnity. Well, I was wrong, for once this was a courtroom drama that had a bit more to offer than the usual story line and twists. In fact, this was even a very enjoyable movie.

Even though I'm not really a fan of Richard Gere (I'm not a woman, so no I don't like him because the way he looks, I only look at his acting), I have to admit that this time he really did a very good job as the slick, media-friendly, arrogant lawyer Martin Vail. Still, in my opinion the real star in this movie is Edward Norton. He's really excellent as the altar boy who is accused of murdering a Catholic bishop.

For once the story isn't as predictable as usual. At first the case seems rather clear: an altar boy is running away from the home of the bishop, with blood all over his clothes. No doubt about it you think, he did it, case closed, next movie! But than the first interesting twist in the movie appears: Yes, he was at the murder scene, but he can't remember anything about the grisly murder, because at that exact moment he got a blackout. He's convinced that there was a third person in the room. That third person must have killed the bishop, he's innocent. His lawyer tries to prove the third man theory in the court room, but as the process comes nearer to the end, some new evidence will make everything a lot clearer and more interesting...

As I already said, this movie is more than just worth a watch, thanks to the rather innovative story line and characters. For once, this movie didn't annoy me more than I could ever like it. That's already worth a lot, so I give it a well deserved 8/10.

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53 out of 61 people found the following review useful:

Edward Norton Shines

8/10
Author: tabuno from utah
23 September 2006

In this strong, twisting court room crime drama thriller, a young Edward Norton shines with this performance that makes the movie a strong, unsettling movie. The dynamic tension between Richard Gere and Laura Linney lends to the underlying swirling dance of political and emotional turmoil that lies beneath the surface of District Attorney and high-profile attorney Gere. While by today's standards (2006) the storyline is now pretty typical, it retains a resonance because of the plot and storyline as well as the acting. Still, the edges of the movie are almost too polished. Some of the technical matters overlooked. Alfre Woodard has a credible role as the courtroom judge and Frances McDormand provides a decent hand as a psychologist (though this key role was a bit weak in comparison to the rest of the movie in terms of the crucial nature that it plays). Gere's tangled relationship with his own team is also fascinating to watch though again a bit torn and tattled with a few lose ends but the supporting cast does well. Overall, this is a solid courtroom crime drama with a nice ripping ending. Eight out of Ten Stars.

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37 out of 41 people found the following review useful:

The Smartest Guy In Town

9/10
Author: bkoganbing from Buffalo, New York
27 September 2008

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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41 out of 51 people found the following review useful:

The Talented Mr.Norton

8/10
Author: shadowman123 from United Kingdom
23 April 2007

Primal Fear is how Ed Norton left is mark to show that he is an acting force to go up ahead. Not only did he prove that he can run with the big dogs like Richard Gere but have the ability to play the audience like a piano. Primal Fear is a solid, courtroom drama that involves a hot shot defence lawyer who loves being the centre of attention and Richard Gere does a good job of being cool, cocky, suave and letting us know he can't lose. However he has his work cut out for him when he meets a young, geeky alter boy who has been involved of the murder of the priest and the game unfolds as he is up against a lot of big-wigs including his ex-girlfriend who happens to be the prosecution lawyer. Although by this time , the film would appear to be dated but the performances from the cast still make this well worth viewing. For those who enjoy court room drama's and thrillers.

PRIMAL FEAR - 8.1 OUT 10

FOR NOW THIS IS THE SHADOWMAN, WISHING YOU GOOD LUCK AND GOODNIGHT !

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29 out of 32 people found the following review useful:

Excellent film

8/10
Author: Grann-Bach (Grann-Bach@jubii.dk) from Denmark
19 April 2007

My fiancée suggested I watch this, and when we found it for sale at a good price, we bought it right away. I must say, this is a marvelous and quite well-crafted film. The acting is top-notch all the way. Gere manages to make us care about a type of person that few like. O'Quinn is somewhat underused, as he is a magnificent actor, but apart from that, everyone gets a good chance to perform well, and they all live up to it. I would have to say that I now have a completely new-found respect for Norton... and I had a great deal of respect for him before even knowing of this movie. The plot is well-written and has good layers to it, especially for a movie of two hours(running time does put quite a limitation on the level of detail and intricacy of the plot). The pacing is really good, the movie never moves neither too fast nor too slowly. This is the second film I've seen that was directed by Gregory Hoblit... and the second that I've really, really liked(both have received 8's by yours truly, and very deservedly so), so I will most definitely keep an eye out for any future works by the man. I haven't read the book of the same title that this is based on, so I can't comment on how accurate and true to the tone this film is. I urge anyone intending to watch this to steer clear of any spoilers on it, because the plot is too good to ruin. I won't detail it here, I'll just say that the film has many court-room scenes, and deals with a very violent crime(and it's not the only occurrence in the film of a violent nature). For that same reason, since it is depicted graphically in the film(but not too much... there was nothing gratuitous about it), I urge anyone who believes they may not be able to handle seeing such to consider if they should watch it or not. There is also quite a bit of language, as well as a brief scene of sexual nature, so if such bother you, you may want to watch a censored version, if you are interested in seeing it. I recommend this very warmly to any fan of court-room dramas and thrillers. If you enjoy an engaging and involving thriller with surprises, this is the movie for you. 8/10

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26 out of 27 people found the following review useful:

Edward Norton delivers the chills...(POSSIBLE SPOILERS AHEAD)

7/10
Author: Neil Doyle from U.S.A.
12 September 2006

PRIMAL FEAR is a good old-fashioned thriller with a modern twist. The plot concerns an altar boy accused of killing a clergyman who molested him and a sleazy lawyer who sees a chance to make tabloid news by taking the case. What he doesn't know is that his client can be just as cunning as he is.

RICHARD GERE seemed to specialize in playing these kind of low-down heels (typecasting does have its perils), and LAURA LINNEY as the prosecuting lawyer has her hands full trying to play a game of one-upmanship against him during an intense courtroom trial.

The story ends on a chilling note, thanks largely to the clever, intense and totally convincing performance ED NORTON gives in his film debut. As the guy who seems to have a devious split personality driving him to do bad things, he's the kind of actor who makes the audience sit up and take notice of his abrupt mood changes. It's no wonder he pulls the wool over so many eyes.

Having said that, it's the climax of the film that is most stunning and brings the story to a totally unexpected conclusion. It's the kind of chilling twist that only the most clever scriptwriters can devise and make seem probable--but it succeeds here.

Summing up: The kind of film you'll want to revisit once you know the whole score. Gere, Linney and Norton deserve high praise.

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34 out of 47 people found the following review useful:

Extremely underrated thriller; Not to be missed

10/10
Author: sol1218 from brooklyn NY
28 October 2003

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

*****SPOILER ALERT***** I was surprised looking at the IMDb top 250 movies that "Primal Fear" isn't among them while the more elaborately made and overrated thriller "The Usual Subjects" is listed as #17 among the all time best in motion picture history. Both movies have narratives that build up to a shocking and surprising ending but the movie "Primal Fear's" ending fits right in with the story that it's presenting and doesn't take anything away from it. While at the same time when you see the movie again for any clues for the surprise ending as hard as you try you can't find them because the ending was, in the true sense of the word, a total surprise.

"Primal Fear" is really one of those movies that has a good story that builds up the suspense level with acting and directing and delivers a shocking ending. The film climax not only stuns the audience but makes total sense and doesn't take away anything from the story that you saw up to that point when it hits you. Where as "The Usual Suspects" surprise ending seems totally contrived and completely negates the story that you were seeing up to the part that you were hit by it that the movie plot that you were watching becomes utterly senseless.

Marty Vail, Richard Gere, is one of Chicago's top defense attorneys who likes to take on high-profile cases for a hefty fee or Pro-Bono as long as it gets him publicity and embellishes his already envious reputation. Marty also believes that everybody no matter how repulsive their crime, which there accused of deserves to be defended to the utmost of his ability. One morning in a bar watching the TV Vail sees a live news report of the police chasing down a young man who is reported to have murdered a very powerful and popular man from the Catholic Church Archbishop Richard Rushman, Stanley Anderson.

Smelling publicity in defending that person, if he's not killed by the police or ends up killing himself, Vail uses his connections to get on the case defending him. At the jail-house talking to the young man Aaron Stampler, Edward Norton, he finds out that he's a 19 year-old altar boy at the church that the Archbishop was in charge of. Stampler tells him that he blacked out, lost time as he puts it, when he came into the Archbishops office when he heard that there was someone else there. Stampler blacked out but when he woke up from his unconscious state he found himself covered with blood and the Archbishop was dead! Seeing that he just panicked and ran.

The state wants the death penalty for Stampler and assigned to prosecute the case Janet Venable, Laura Linney, who once had an affair with Marty Vail and is very surprised that Vail is handling the case for Stampler's defense. Before he's to go on trial when Stampler is examined by a defense paid psychiatrist Dr. Molly Arrington, Frances McDormand. It's then discovered that he has a split personality and is not in control of himself when his other self takes over his mind and he becomes "Roy", a completely different and violent person! Marty Vail later also finds this out the hard and brutal way about Stampler's condition by being banged around by "Roy".

It's determined by Dr. Arrington that Sampler is a very sick person and should get help in a mental hospital not in a prison but since the trial is already on Vail can't change the plea from not guilty to innocent by reason of insanity. Vail later finds out that Stampler was sexually abused by the Archbishop by tracking down a video tape with the Archbishop having Stampler and other altar boys and girls engage in sexual activities while he watched. The tape would not only be very embarrassing to the church but to a lot of high powerful people in the city and state government if it were released.

Vail sends a copy of the tape to the prosecutor, Miss. Venable, so it would force her to use it at the trial. At the trial State Prosecutor Venable has the tape played,to the total shock of those in the courtroom, to show that Stampler had cause and reason to murder the Archbishop. Just as Vail expected, by releasing the tape to Venable, the case starts to backfire against her. It's then when Vail puts Aaron Stampler on the stand to be cross-examined by Miss. Venable who aggressive and belligerently questions him on the archbishops murder he goes completely berserk. "Roy" takes over Aaron's mind and attacks Miss. Venable and almost ends up breaking her neck. Everybody decides, the Judge as well as the prosecution, that Stampler is insane and not responsible for his actions and drops the murder case against him. I's agreed that he needs to be in a mental hospital and not in a state prison ;but the story is not over for the movies shocking and surprising ending is just about to happen.

One of the best crime/court dramas ever made with outstanding performances by, of course, Edward Norton, Richard Gere, Laura Linney and everyone else involved with the acting in the movie. Don't miss seeing it you won't be disappointed, you'll be rewarded with one of the best crime/court dramas and surprise ending movies of all time.

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