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Primal Fear (1996)

Stanley Anderson , Mike Bacarella , Gregory Hoblit  |  R |  DVD
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (368 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: Stanley Anderson, Mike Bacarella, Steven Bauer, Andre Braugher, Tony Fitzpatrick
  • Directors: Gregory Hoblit
  • Format: Multiple Formats, AC-3, Color, Dolby, Dubbed, NTSC, Special Edition, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
  • Dubbed: French, Spanish
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: R (Restricted)
  • Studio: Paramount
  • DVD Release Date: March 10, 2009
  • Run Time: 130 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (368 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B001NY4X46
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #186,802 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Special Features

None.

Editorial Reviews

A high-profile slaying becomes the case of an ambitious attorney's career in this legal thriller based on the novel by William Diehl. Richard Gere stars as Martin Vail, a famed defense lawyer who volunteers his services to Aaron Stampler (Edward Norton), a Kentucky teenager charged with the murder of a Chicago archbishop. Covered with blood, Aaron was captured after a foot chase broadcast live on TV, making a gleeful Vail certain that he could raise his profile by defending the obviously guilty suspect. Assigned to prosecute is Assistant District Attorney Janet Venable (Laura Linney), who is Vail's ex-girlfriend. Vail's case becomes more complicated than he expected when a psychologist, Dr. Molly Arrington (Frances McDormand) concludes that Stampler suffers from multiple personality disorder. Vail also uncovers evidence that the archbishop was involved in a corrupt land scheme and may have molested young parishioners. Now the cynical, opportunistic attorney is faced with a daunting prospect, a client who may actually deserve his best defense. Its shocking, twist ending made Primal Fear (1996) a big box office hit and earned Norton, in his screen debut, an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
81 of 83 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Your job is to sit there and look innocent." August 8, 2006
Format:DVD
The archbishop of Chicago has just been brutally murdered and 19-year old altar boy Aaron (Edward Norton) is found running from the scene, covered in the man's blood. It looks like an open and shut case against the simple, stuttering boy, until dashing Martin Vail (Richard Gere) offers to defend him. With the help of a psychologist (Frances McDormand), Vail discovers a shocking secret about young Aaron that may save his life.

This is a great movie; I've seen it many times and it never gets old. Gere is perfectly cast as the handsome and confident charmer, and Edward Norton surely had one of his best roles ever as Aaron - and this was his first movie role. He is so charismatic that you will not be able to take your eyes off him. The search for the killer's motive is intense and surprising, with lots of opportunities for Gere to showcase his tremendous appeal. Highly recommended for those who like character-driven mysteries.
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41 of 44 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A more than solid thriller, with a twist November 4, 2002
Format:DVD
When I had first laid eyes on Primal Fear on pay-per-view years ago I had first dismissed at as another Hollywood who-done-it courtroom drama with no originality. And was I ever wrong. Primal Fear may seem like something you've seen before, but the clever, highly intelligent, and twisting script makes the film soar to unexpected heights, and Edward Norton's breakout performace as murder suspect Aaron has to be seen to be believed (Norton would receive a Golden Globe and his first Oscar Nomination for Best Supporting Actor which Cuba Gooding Jr. ended up winning for Jerry Maguire). Richard Gere has the starring role playing Norton's lawyer who seems to be the only one who believes Norton's innocence. With a super twist ending and a superb all star cast which includes Laura Linney, Frances McDormand, Steve Bauer, John Mahoney, Maura Tierney, and Andre Braugher, Primal Fear is a near superb little gem that I strongly suggest seeing.
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30 of 32 people found the following review helpful
Format:DVD
"I don't have to believe you. I don't care if you are innocent. I'm your mother, your father, your priest." This is what defense attorney Martin Vale (Richard Gere) tells his client, Aaron Stampler (Ed Norton), as they are preparing to defend him against charges of killing the Archbishop of Chicago.

Of course, later, Marty says: "I believe in the notion that people are innocent until proven guilty. I believe in that notion because I choose to believe in the basic goodness of people. I choose to believe that not all crimes are committed by bad people. And I try to understand that some very, very good people do some very bad things."

So--which one is true? Nobody is quite what they seem in this legal procedural that will keep you in your seat and your finger away from the 'Pause' button for its entire 2 plus hours' duration.

First, you see the kindly Archbishop attended by a heavenly choir at a charity function. The city loves him. But, is his public face the same one he wears when he's all by himself with the altar boys?

Did bumbling, stuttering Aaron kill the Archbishop. Nobody really wants to believe it.

Does Janet (Laura Linney) truly tow the company line as the assistant prosecutor? Well, and is she truly no longer interested in Marty?

The plot's got more twists than a pretzel factory. I no sooner thought I knew what was going on or what someone was going to to when they changed it on me.

"Primal Fear" is one of the best written and acted courtroom dramas I've seen. My only question to myself is why the heck did I wait this long?
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant acting, story, everything. June 20, 2001
Format:DVD
Usually, I stay away from courtroom dramas because they're the same thing over and over, but this one truly is different. The story may seem a little familiar if you've seen films of this nature before, but I can guarantee that as you continue to watch it, you'll see how well this movie rises above the rest.
Making his first major debut, Edward Norton is nothing short if terrific in the role of Aaron. He was robbed of the Oscar for doing the great job that he did throughout. Richard Gere has never given a truly bad performance, but he does go a step above his usually sleepy-looking acting style by showing some good raw emotion. Andre Braugher has always been a great actor and will continue to be a great actor, and Laura Linney shows that she's always been a fine actress (nevermind the miserable CONGO). The direction by Gregory Hoblit is great and fast-paced and I recommend that you take a look at Hoblit's FALLEN if you liked this film.
I cannot rave enough about the acting here, so I'll just stop now, but first I have to end by saying that throughout this slick film, it never gets bogged down in pretentiousness, as many courtroom thrillers do. You'll love this film all the way up until the true shocker of an ending.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Murder and Misdirection. June 22, 2004
Format:DVD
"Fui bailar no meu batel alem do mar cruel," sings modern fadista Dulce Pontes in this movie's dynamic title song: "I went dancing in my boat, there on the cruel sea." And it must be just like a nutshell-sized boat dancing on a stormy ocean's waves that nineteen-year-old Aaron Stampler (Edward Norton) feels after his arrest for the savage murder of Chicago's saintly Archbishop Rushman. Or does it?

Certainly it doesn't help that Aaron was caught running from the crime scene, covered in blood, and with the archbishop's ring in his pocket. Besides, who is going to believe him anyway - a stuttering, uneducated boy from rural Kentucky who was found begging by the powerful clergyman, taken in as an altar boy and made to sing in his choir - that he was present when the murder was committed but can't remember a single thing because he blacked out? Nobody; surely not the police and ADA Janet Venable (Laura Linney), assigned by D.A./Rushman friend Shaughnessy (John Mahoney) personally to try the case, with the express mandate to obtain a death penalty conviction. Nobody, that is, except Aaron's defense attorney Martin Vail (Richard Gere). Vail, of all people: the flamboyant ADA-turned-private-practitioner, the star attorney not shying away from even the shadiest client, to whom TV and magazine cover interviews are as second nature as his courtroom appearances, and who cynically quotes as his mottos a professor's maxims on his first day in law school: "From this day forward, if your mother says she loves you, get a second opinion." And: "If you want justice, go to a whorehouse. If you want to get f**ked, go to court."

"Primal Fear" was adapted from William Diehl's like-named bestselling novel and, like in many literary adaptations, its screenplay is a hit-and-miss affair.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars The devil is in the details
Remember when the big studios used to make movies like these? Large budgets and A-list actors in a simple crime or courtroom drama? Read more
Published 4 hours ago by Darren
5.0 out of 5 stars Review of the movie Primal Fear with Richard Gere, Edward Norton &...
I've watched this movie many times I like it so much. Edward Norton is amazing in this movie. The other actors are an A+ bonus. Read more
Published 13 hours ago by RRJCRVT2912
3.0 out of 5 stars Pretty much run of the mill production
Pretty much run of the mill production. The cliche friction between defense and prosecutor who is also former lover etc. No surprises. Read more
Published 13 hours ago by Scot Rider
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Nice movie to watch.
Published 21 hours ago by roboticist
5.0 out of 5 stars Do not miss it!
Very well done movie. Great acting, good intrigue an suspense.
Published 1 day ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars I highly recommend this film and consider one of the best films ...
This is a top notch thrill ride that will leave you guessing until the very last scene. Richard Gere and Edward Norton take you to the edge and then bring you back before you fall... Read more
Published 1 day ago by N. Anderson
4.0 out of 5 stars Good, solid thriller
A little over-acted by Richard Gere but over a good movie, intriguing, nice little twist at the end. Ed Norton does a great job.
Published 1 day ago by Racon2R
4.0 out of 5 stars Another good performance from Gere!
Very good plot with several surprises, especially the ending. Gere and Horton are both superb!
Published 1 day ago by Lou Orleman
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent drama. on the edge of my seat throughout ...
excellent drama. on the edge of my seat throughout the entire film. great acting
Published 1 day ago by Ron Slaglor
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Edward Norton and Richard Gere are AMAZING!
Published 2 days ago by BIB
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Worth the Upgrade?
I was just wondering the same thing myself. I also have the DVD and was wondering if it would be worth upgrading. I found some reviews online that talk about the image quality. For the most part, they said that its a noticeable step up from the DVD, but it won't be anything that knocks your socks... Read More
May 21, 2010 by CompDude2 |  See all 2 posts
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