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Primal Fear (1996)

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

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Writers:

(novel), (screenplay) | 1 more credit »
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1,091 ( 115)
Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 10 wins & 11 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
... Martin Vail
... Janet Venable
... Shaughnessy
... Shoat
... Molly
... Aaron / Roy
... Yancy
... Goodman
... Pinero
... Stenner
... Martinez
... Rushman
... Naomi
... Alex
... 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  »

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Box Office

Budget:

$30,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$293,515, 26 July 1996

Gross USA:

$56,116,183

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$102,616,183
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Color:

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Leonardo DiCaprio was the producer's original choice for Aaron/Roy, but he ultimately turned it down. See more »

Goofs

(at around 51 mins) When Vail and Shaughnessy are having dinner in the Asian restaurant, the rib on Shaughnessy's plate disappears between shots. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
[while getting dressed as Naomi helps him]
Martin Vail: On my first day of law school, my professor says two things. First was: from this day forward, when your mother tells you she loves you, get a second opinion.
Jack Connerman: [chuckles] And?
Martin Vail: If you want justice, go to a whorehouse. If you wanna get fucked, go to court.
See more »

Connections

Featured in Primal Fear: Star Witness (2009) See more »

Soundtracks

Introitus: Cibavit Eos
by William Byrd
Performed by The Voices of Christ Church Cathedral Choir
Conducted by Stephen Darlington
Courtesy of Nimbus Records
See more »

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User Reviews

The birth of a star and the resurrection of another
8 May 2004 | by See all my reviews

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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