Primal Fear is a courtroom drama that follows Richard Gere’s Martin Vail as he tries to defend a innocent-looking 19 year old Aaron (Edward Norton) as he is accused of a high profile murder of an archbishop.
I love a good murder mystery and a good legal drama, and this one qualifies as both. As Gere tries to find a motive to defend this stuttering, innocent looking altar boy the case presents new twists and turns that makes the real murderer harder to pin point. Once the final reveal hits, it isn’t what anyone expects at the onset. The film also grapples with the complex questions of the ethics behind defending a client you suspect might be guilty.
What sets this film apart from other legal thrillers out there has to be the star power of Edward Norton. Gere has played the scummy Chicago lawyer before (albeit he had more musical numbers in Chicago), even if he has an equally good performance here too. Laura Linney is great as the prosecutor. But they pale in comparison to Edward Norton. This is only Norton’s second IMDB credit, and in 1996 he was considered a newcomer. His performance in this movie may still be my favorite Norton role right behind Fight Club. He’s so engaging and the acting he does with just his face is incredible. In a performance that feels utterly reminiscent of Anthony Perkin’s breakout in Psycho, Norton plays the possibly sinister floppy haired awkward teen in fantastic fashion. Is this movie the same caliber as Psycho? No. But I think what really sets this movie apart from others in the same genre is the absolutely engaging performance of a young Edward Norton.
If anything had to be fixed in this movie, I feel like a lot of potential interesting loose ends were just dropped and the big twist was revealed way too early in the movie. Like what was carved in the victims chest. That could have been more interesting, but they kind of just made it a random clue. Still, even when you think you know the full story never underestimate little Edward Norton. An outstanding cast elevates this typical legal drama above the rest, but without a doubt Norton steals the show.
Amy’s Recommendation: 9/10