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The Cinematic Katzenjammer: Oct 6: Primal Fear


Oct 6: Primal Fear

"An altar boy is accused of murdering a priest, and the truth is buried several layers deep."
Directed by: Gregory Hoblit, Rated: R, 129 minutes

Courtroom dramas are really hard to sell. For the most part, they can be very boring, predictable, and all kinds of stupid. Of course, there are a handful that are the exception (To Kill a Mockingbird, A Time to Kill, 12 Angry Men). Primal Fear can be put on the same list as those films. It's a much smaller film then the others and not quite as flashy (or as "classic"), but it manages to deliver incredible performances and tell a rather twisty story that grows more interesting as the movie progresses. Oh, and it introduces us to Edward Norton. 

Without Primal Fear, we wouldn't  have Fight Club, American History X, The Illusionist, or 25th Hour

The film follows Martin Vail (Richard Gere), a hotshot attorney who works more for the fame than for justice. He'll make deals for his clients as though they're worthless and do whatever he can to get his name all over the place. Aaron Stampler (Edward Norton) is a stuttering altar boy from Kentucky. He's arrested for murdering the arch-bishop of Chicago, in a seemingly easy to close case. He's found covered in blood and with the bishop's ring in his pocket. Vail, seeing a moment to garner more fame and attention, agrees to represent Aaron, pro-bono. As the case unravels, and Vail continues to press Aaron for details of the murder, much is revealed to the shock of both the characters in the film and the audience at home.

It's a complicated film that slowly ravels, never feeling forced or 'gimmicky'

It's easy to point out the best part of the film. The acting is absolutely flawless. Richard Gere is perfect as Vail, bringing his natural charisma and machismo to a character that's all too full of himself. As he realizes there is more to the case then a quick trial, he steps up his game and proves he's as good of a lawyer as he is a braggart. His supporting crew is just as impressive, with Frances McDormand playing the sympathetic psychiatrist, Andre Braugher playing his best friend and assistant, and Maura Tierney as his paralegal. However, in the midst of all these performances (from veteran actors), the star is Edward Norton. In his first role ever, Norton is phenomenal from the get-go. The character of Aaron is much more complex than you can gather from the initial introduction, and seeing where his character goes is not only shocking but incredible to watch. Seeing as this is our first look at Norton and his ability, you can easily see how he's one of the best actors working today. 

Something about this guy pisses me the f**k off but he does (on occasion)  remind me of how great he can really be. 

I would highly recommend Primal Fear. It's a courtroom drama that packs incredible performances into a small little film. It's very heavy on the dialogue, and it's completely up to the actors to make the film as good as it is (they deliver). The dialogue is strong, the plot is engaging, and Primal Fear is the kind of film that leaves you floored at its conclusion. Even if you've seen it before, and know how it all plays out, the ending still has quite the power behind it. Edward Norton is perfect as Aaron Stampler and takes the film to great heights, throwing it well past average and into unforgettable. Gere, who I am not usually a fan of, holds his own just as well and reminds us why he's a leading man. Go find this movie as fast as you can. The courtroom never looked so engaging. 

The Good:
a simple film that goes places you'd never expect, turning a small movie into a larger masterpiece
The Better:
a supporting cast that holds their own, standing behind the very talented Richard Gere
The Best:
Edward Norton in his first role, showing that from the very beginning that he's incredible

Overall: 8.6/10


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At October 7, 2012 at 1:50 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Edward Norton was great in this film. Did you know he improvised the stutter? It wasn't in the script. Richard Gere was definitely better than usual. BTW, I used to have a serious celebrity crush on him back in the day. This was in the "An Officer and a Gentleman" era. And now that I've "outed" myself for being seriously *old,* I'll leave. ;-)

At October 7, 2012 at 3:05 PM , Blogger Nick said...

Haha. It's okay and you're not old! lol

And I did not know that about the stutter. Makes it even better!

At October 9, 2012 at 6:05 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Agreed! Based on what I've heard, Norton has a reputation for really owning a role and insisting upon doing things his own way. Drives some directors nuts. But he's such a gifted actor.

At October 9, 2012 at 6:57 PM , Blogger Nick said...

If you know you're good and what not, why not be frustrating to work with? lol


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