I’ve had a love-hate relationship with my desire to see this film for years. I love Edward Norton and have always wanted to see him in his first role. On the other end, I really hate Richard Gere – so much so that I’ve put off watching this film this long. Well, I’ve finally seen the film. So who won out: Norton or Gere?
Martin Vail (Gere) is a hotshot criminal defense attorney who has just found his next big case. Aaron (Norton) is the only suspect in the brutal murder of an Arch-Bishop found running from the scene covered in the victim’s blood. However as Vail digs deeper into the case it seems there is no way that the shy timed and stuttering Aaron could have hurt anyone. The film builds and twists and turns in interesting and fantastic ways building to an ending that gives The Usual Suspects a run for it’s money.
Norton is perfect in his first film role. He is a truly gifted actor and every one of his talent shines in this character. This film would be nothing without his performance. But that’s not to say that his is the only good performance. Laura Linney, Frances McDormand, John Mahoney and others all turn in solid performances to keep the rest of the film afloat when Norton isn’t on screen.
Then there is Gere. People seem to like Gere. I don’t. I’ve never really enjoyed any of his performances. I don’t know what it is, but he just doesn’t work for me. He’s decent in this film. His presence in the film did not distract from its overall greatness. So whether you like Gere or not, that will have no bearing on your opinion of the film.
This film is great on many levels. It’s a great courtroom drama, it’s a great mystery, it’s a great psychological study of the characters and it’s a film filled with great actors. There really is not reason not to like this film.
The film is presented in 1.85:1 widescreen and 5.1 surround sound. Also with French and Spanish language tracks and English, French and Spanish subtitles. This is a great transfer that looks and sounds fantastic.
Audio Commentary with Director Gregory Hoblit, Writer Ann Biderman, Producer Gary Lucchesi, Exec. Producer Hawk Koch and Casting Director Deborah Aquila: Despite the amount of people involved, this is mostly a dull and uninspired commentary. It mostly reiterates the information covered in the featurettes and there is also a lot of dead space.
Primal Fear: The Final Verdict: (17 min.) A good making of documentary with interviews with just about everyone but Gere.
Primal Fear: Star Witness-Casting Edward Norton: (18 min.) Just what you’d expect. A focus on the casting for the film and how they found Norton and how damn perfect he is in the film.
The Psychology of Guilt: (13 min) This piece talks about real life “insanity defenses” and how often they actually work. It is interesting to look at the reality of what is used within the film. They also look at real cases and how they turned out.
This is a very solid film. A great story with a fantastic acting and this new DVD edition has some great new features. At a $14.99 retail price it’s hard to say no to such a great film. At the very least it’s most certainly worth a rental if you’ve never seen it.
Paramount presents Primal Fear: Hard Evidence Edition. Directed by Gregory Hoblit. Starring Richard Gere, Edward Norton, Laura Linney, Frances McDormand and John Mahoney. Written by Steve Shagan and Ann Biderman. Based on the book by William Diehl. Running time: 130 minutes. Rated R for brief grisly violence, pervasive strong language and a sex scene. Released on DVD: March 10, 2009. Available at Amazon.com
Tags: Edward Norton, Richard Gere