Starring: Richard Gere, Edward Norton, Laura Linney, Frances McDormand, Terry O’Quinn
Director: Gregory Hoblit
Martin Vail (Gere) is an arrogant, spotlight-hugging, high-powered lawyer. His photogenic appearance and over-confident demeanour means that he normally ends up dominating the monthly magazines much to the chagrin of those who have to work with him. When the Archbishop of Chicago is viciously murdered, Vail seizes the opportunity to grab the headlines again by representing the Kentucky youth, Aaron (Norton), who is accused of his murder. All the evidence points to his guilt but he insists that someone else committed the murder. It soon becomes clear that there is more to the case than meets the eye and evidence of corruption and perversion give Vail a chance to implant doubt in the mind of the jurors. He is also forced to compete with Janet Venable (Laura Linney, ‘Dave’, ‘Congo’) who takes on the duel role as prosecution lawyer and Vail’s ex-lover.
The performances in this movie are excellent. I’ve never been one for Richard Gere but he pulls out a marvellous performance as does Oscar winning actress, Frances McDormand (for ‘Fargo’), who plays Molly, the psychiatrist. And having said all that, the show is stolen by Academy Award Nominee, Edward Norton. Norton (nominated for this very role) plays the babbling altar boy, Aaron, who is accused of the heinous crime. It’s this mature performance from the little known actor which really turns this film on its head. There is admirable support too from John Mahoney and Andre Braugher (‘Striking Distance’), Terry O’Quinn (‘The Stepfather’) and Alfre Woodard (‘Passion Fish’).
The movie is chock-full of intelligent twists and even though at times it is apparent that certain areas of the plot have been glossed over (the corruption sub-plot and Vail’s relationship with Venable), it is done for the benefit of the movie and can therefore be forgiven. Maybe I’m becoming a little soft, but ‘Primal Fear’ (based on a novel) is streets ahead of any of John Grisham’s novels-turned-movies.