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Primal Fear (1996)

R  |   |  Crime, Drama, Mystery  |  3 April 1996 (USA)
7.7
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Ratings: 7.7/10 from 116,257 users   Metascore: 47/100
Reviews: 232 user | 78 critic | 18 from Metacritic.com

An altar boy is accused of murdering a priest, and the truth is buried several layers deep.

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Writers:

(novel), (screenplay), 1 more credit »
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Title: Primal Fear (1996)

Primal Fear (1996) on IMDb 7.7/10

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Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 12 wins & 8 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
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...
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Shaughnessy
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...
Molly
...
...
Bud Yancy
...
Tommy Goodman
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Joey Pinero
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Abel Stenner
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Martinez
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Archbishop Rushman
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Naomi Chance
...
Alex
...
Jack Connerman
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Storyline

Courtroom thriller about a slick, hotshot lawyer who takes the seemingly unwinnable case of a young altar boy accused of murdering an eminent catholic priest. Written by Jonathan Broxton <j.w.broxton@sheffield.ac.uk>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

Sooner or later a man who wears two faces forgets which one is real. See more »


Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

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

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Country:

Language:

|

Release Date:

3 April 1996 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Iskonski strah  »

Box Office

Budget:

$30,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$293,515 (USA) (26 July 1996)

Gross:

JPY 197,208,300 (Japan) (6 December 1996)
 »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Color:

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

According to the Blu-ray behind-the-scenes information, the original rough cut of the film ran 3 hrs 15 min, including more detailed exposition of Aaron's small-town country life and discussions with his former junior high school teacher. The scenes were cut partly for running time and partly to avoid the producers 'tipping their hand" and alerting the audience to the ultimate ending. See more »

Goofs

When Aaron pushes Martin Vail against the wall in prison you can see that the wall bends, showing that the wall wasn't made out of bricks or any other hard material. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Marty: 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?
Marty: "If you want justice, go to a whorehouse. If you wanna get fucked, go to court."
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Siskel & Ebert: Episode dated 13 April 1996 (1996) See more »

Soundtracks

Lacrimosa
from Requiem
by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (as W.A. Mozart)
Performed by Wiener Sängerknaben (as Wiener Sängerknaben)
Courtesy of Capriccio
by arrangement with Source/Q
See more »

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User Reviews

Decent thriller that relies heavily on a solid cast.
10 October 2006 | by See all my reviews

Rating: ** 1/2 out of ****

Here's a film I remembered being a huge fan of back when I first saw it in theaters in '96. Seeing it again for the third time since, it doesn't quite live up to my fond memories. Aside from Edward Norton's scene-stealing performance as suspect Aaron Stampler, there's really not much about the film that separates it from most of the genre. The plot, concerning the murder of a beloved archbishop at the alleged hands of an innocent-looking altar boy and the eventual high-profile trial, is certainly rife with potential but is never executed beyond the level that's expected of a competent pulp thriller.

But credit should be given where it's due, especially the first hour of the film, which does a pretty solid job of setting up the film as an engrossing mix of murder mystery and courtroom drama. The performances are all solid, with Richard Gere providing yet another effective variation of the slick, cocky persona (this time as a "big-shot attorney") he's mastered and Laura Linney acting convincingly stressed out and aggravated by the understandably vexing situation her character's been placed in.

But with all the pieces in place in the first half, the film never quite results in the tight, suspenseful thriller we expect. The most noticeable problem is excess baggage, with the film too often straying from the case at hand and veering towards less interesting tangents. There's just too much chaff here, with subplots that include the romantic tension between Linney and Gere, the writer doing the article on Vail, and the housing development project that simply takes up too much of the movie's already overlong running time.

Equally problematic is a major plot twist halfway through which, while effective in its own right and allows the opportunity for Norton to stretch his considerable acting talent, ultimately lessens the speculative tension that these thrillers usually rely on. From that point on, most of the enjoyment is derived from Norton's performance, and though it's not quite the show-stopper I once considered it to be (probably doesn't help I just saw this flick after his absolutely incredible performance in American History X), it's still one of the better debut performances any actor has ever put forth.

It's with some relief that I can at least say the film saves its best scenes for last (the last three minutes are quite memorable), and definitely finishes things off on a high note. Primal Fear was directed by Gregory Hoblit, who's actually proved himself a pretty skillful filmmaker when it comes to crafting thrillers. This one's merely competent, no more and no less.


33 of 47 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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Sick and sad message oregondanne
Plot hole??? ladyvengeancemusik
Did they ever find Linda's body? cylindroid
Who was the 'real' Aaron? ddb540
And the oscar goes to.... phi413
Meaning of the title...? mattdavefenton
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