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 3rd person in the room. The intensity builds when a surprise twist alters everyone's perception of the crime.
|Release Date||:||April 3, 1996|
|Genres||:||Crime, Drama, Mystery, Thriller|
|Production Company||:||Paramount Pictures|
|Production Countries||:||United States of America|
|Writers||:||William Diehl, Steve Shagan, Ann Biderman|
|Casts||:||Richard Gere, Edward Norton, Laura Linney, John Mahoney, Frances McDormand, Terry O'Quinn, Andre Braugher, Steven Bauer, Joe Spano, Tony Plana, Alfre Woodard, Maura Tierney, Reg Rogers|
|Plot Keywords||:||corruption, bishop, court case, pornographic video, court, psychopathy|
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.