7.7/10
184,634
320 user 75 critic

Primal Fear (1996)

Trailer
2:28 | Trailer
An altar boy is accused of murdering a priest, and the truth is buried several layers deep.

Director:

Gregory Hoblit

Writers:

William Diehl (novel), Steve Shagan (screenplay) | 1 more credit »
Reviews
Popularity
1,120 ( 118)
Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 10 wins & 11 nominations. See more awards »

Videos

Photos

Edit

Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Richard Gere ... Martin Vail
Laura Linney ... Janet Venable
John Mahoney ... Shaughnessy
Alfre Woodard ... Shoat
Frances McDormand ... Molly
Edward Norton ... Aaron / Roy
Terry O'Quinn ... Yancy
Andre Braugher ... Goodman
Steven Bauer ... Pinero
Joe Spano ... Stenner
Tony Plana ... Martinez
Stanley Anderson ... Rushman
Maura Tierney ... Naomi
Jon Seda ... Alex
Reg Rogers ... Connerman
Edit

Storyline

When a young man, Aaron, is charged with the horrific murder of Archbishop Rushman, hot-shot Chicago lawyer Martin Vail takes on his defense at no charge. Aaron was a homeless street kid before he was taken in by the Archbishop. He's shy and speaks with a stammer. Vail is convinced that Aaron is innocent but after discovering a video that shows Aaron may have had good reason to want the Archbishop dead, he begins to question that conclusion. When Aaron lashes out at the psychologist examining him another personality, Roy, is revealed. With the trial already underway, Vail cannot change Aaron plea and so has to find a way to introduce his client's condition. Aaron has something of a surprise for him as well. Written by garykmcd

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

Don't believe everything you see... See more »


Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for brief grisly violence, pervasive strong language and a sex scene | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
Edit

Did You Know?

Trivia

Maura Tierney and Laura Linney played the ex-wife and wife of Jim Carrey, in Liar Liar (1997) and The Truman Show (1998), respectively. See more »

Goofs

Martin tells Tommy "Aaron" should be in a psychiatric hospital not in jail, murder in the first degree sentences are sent to prison not jail. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
[while getting dressed as Naomi helps him]
Martin Vail: On my first day of law school, my professor says two things. First was: from this day forward, when your mother tells you she loves you, get a second opinion.
Jack Connerman: [chuckles] And?
Martin Vail: If you want justice, go to a whorehouse. If you wanna get fucked, go to court.
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Bad Girls: Episode #6.4 (2004) See more »

Soundtracks

Don't Deceive Me (Please Don't Go)
by Chuck Willis
Performed by Johnny Otis
Courtesy of Alligator Records
See more »

User Reviews

The birth of a star and the resurrection of another
8 May 2004 | by advixenSee all my reviews

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.


180 of 206 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you? | Report this
Review this title | See all 320 user reviews »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more »
Edit

Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English | Spanish

Release Date:

3 April 1996 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Primal Fear See more »

Edit

Box Office

Budget:

$30,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$9,871,222, 7 April 1996

Gross USA:

$56,116,183

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$102,616,183
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

Contribute to This Page

We've Got Your Streaming Picks Covered

Looking for some great streaming picks? Check out some of the IMDb editors' favorites movies and shows to round out your Watchlist.

Visit our What to Watch page



Recently Viewed