Saturday, July 13, 2013

Retro Review: Primal Fear (1996)



                              Plenty To 'Fear' In This Psychological Courtroom Drama

               To me, it is very rare when we see courtroom dramas on the big screen, and usually, they don't intrigue me a whole lot, but Primal Fear is a rarity as it is a courtroom drama that also works as a psychological chiller that really keeps you guessing.

               Story:
             Primal Fear is about a Chicago-based lawyer named Martin Vail (Richard Gere) who always looks to jab the juiciest court case and make headlines. Now, it seems that he has hit the jackpot as he lands a case involving the murder a beloved archbishop and one of his altar boys named Aaron Stampler (Edward Norton) who may or may not be innocent.

               What I Liked About It:
            Aside from the acting, which I will get to later, what I really loved about this film is that hardly anybody in this film is good or evil, and you don't know whose side are you on. You have Martin, the vainy attention-loving lawyer who looks to save Aaron from the death penalty, yet tries to manipulate the prosecutor Janet, who is also his ex-lover, into losing the case. Then there is Aaron, who appears innocent and has a stuttering problem, yet may or not have a darker, split personality named "Roy". Also, there is Janet, who is very snarky and cynical yet you understand why.

           The actors in this film all do an outstanding job. Richard Gere gives a superb and dynamic performance as Martin. Laura Linney, who plays Janet, delivers a terrific performance that really made me hate her character so much. Frances McDormand is also in this movie and while she has a small supporting role, she certainly shines. But the actor who truly steals the show is Mr. Edward Norton. This was his debut performance and for his first film, he really knocks it out of the ballpark and I can see why he got nominated for an Oscar for his performance.

           What I Didn't Like About It:
          Honestly, nothing.

           Consensus:
          Overall, Primal Fear is an effective psychological courtroom drama that really keeps you wondering throughout the entire film. It's well-acted, engaging, and has rich and complex character development. A thriller that I highly recommend.

Rating: 4.5/5