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Primal Fear (SE)
DVD disk
03.18.2009 By: Jason Adams
Primal Fear (SE) order
Director:
Gregory Hoblit

Actors:
Richard Gerre
Edward Norton
Laura Linney

Rating:
Movie:
Extras:
Overall:

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WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
A self-absorbed criminal defense attorney takes on a case involving a timid young man accused of brutally murdering the priest he served as an altar boy. But as the real facts present themselves, the truth proves to be more complex.

Isnít it always?
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
PRIMAL FEAR was the first time I (and anyone, really) came across Edward Norton as an actor. Heís proven himself many times since, but I doubt he wouldíve gotten the chance without such a memorable launching role. Without giving anything away, Iíll say Norton gives a wildly divergent performance believably and compellingly. Watching the movie13 years later, the young actor is still phenomenalÖand the rest of the flick ainít that bad.

Richard Gere may not be the headliner he once was, but PRIMAL FEAR is a good reminder of his strengths as an actor. Heís an understated performer to be sure, but he does a lot of work with very little. His Martin Vail goes under a predictable arc on the road to redemption but Gere makes it seem natural. Like Norton, Laura Linney was pretty much unknown up to that point (ignoring CONGO) but she holds her own and more, especially in the courtroom scenes. Thereís also a decent supporting cast sporting the likes of Frances McDormand, Andre Braugher, Maura Tierney and John Locke himself, Terry OíQuinn.

The acting is the main selling point here though. The script is solid, although aside from the end itís your standard legal thriller. The courtroom scenes are tense but nothing special. What I found more interesting, outside of any scene with Norton, is the lives of the lawyers outside the trial. Gere and Linney have good chemistry and tension in and out of the courtroom.

But a big part of why PRIMAL FEAR is still remembered is the ending. And while twist endings are now more akin to a marketing ploy, this was one of the first films I remember seeing that shocked and surprised me in the last five minutes. It may be predictable in todayís cinematic climate, but as a young viewer, the end rocked my ass. And thatís not to say that PRIMAL FEAR isnít still a good film beyond its final five minu
THE EXTRAS
When I saw that the DVD came packaged in a faux evidence bag, I assumed they were trying to disguise a lack of bonus material with kitschy packaging. But itís got a couple tricks up its sleeve, mainly the two retrospective features.

Commentary by directory Gregory Hoblit, writer Ann Biderman, producer Gary Lucchesi, executive producer Hawk Koch, and casting director Deborah Aquila: The whole gang pitches in to make this an informative commentary. A good chunk of the more interesting info is included in some of the other special features, so I only suggest this if youíre supremely in love with the film.

The Final Verdict (17:59): Cast and crew look back at the making of the movie, with special attention to the end. Itís a nice little retrospective filled with stories and trivia. Iíve never seen Ed Norton laugh as much as he does here.

Star Witness (17:57): The casting director and Norton go over the difficult process of casting Aaron. Itís cool seeing Norton look back at this with perspective. Thereís also some cool facts about who else was up for the role, like Leonardo DiCaprio.

Psychology of Guilt (13:36): Some legal experts go over the insanity defense in trial, covering how it plays in to the film compared to real legal cases

Theatrical Trailers and Previews.
FINAL DIAGNOSIS
PRIMAL FEAR is remembered mainly for Edward Norton and itís ending, but in between you have a solid legal thriller. Plus silver fox Richard Gere.

Extra Tidbit: In addition to DiCaprio, Matt Damon and internet sensation Wil Wheaton were also up for the role of Aaron.
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