Just watched Primal Fear (1996) on YouTube. It’s good not only for the story but also for the most wonderful cast I would like to see together. Richard Gere and Laura Linney (The Mothman Prophecies couple) are wonderful in their roles. Edward Norton in his career-launching role is SUPERB! And Frances McDormand… well you just put her in a role that you want to look believable as everyday life, as the psychiatrist she plays here. The perfect cast for this movie!
The film’s dialogues are so tautly-written, so spontaneously delivered. Gere and Linney’s legal fight to prove Norton (playing a 19 year-old altar boy) innocent/guilty of the archbishop’s murder makes the character interaction come live in this courtroom drama. Norton, really looking 19 (as much as in Red Dragon, six years later) appears incredibly good at synchronizing his faltering speech (an apparently schizophrenic character) with facial gestures and a muddled look in eyes. The friskiness of using “allegedly” out of context in the climax scene in the courtroom is simply unforgettable.
Primal Fear also comes to me as the earliest movie showing malingering intelligently and carries the invaluable question of what matters in a legal battle, particularly for lawyers whose self-esteem swivels on victories not only penned down by the magistrate, but also by the inner judge endorsing each move as a credit. How this credit is lost in both lawyers—Gere and Linney—makes this movie a classic. A good one for lovers of literary suspense.