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Laramie Movie Scope:
Primal Fear

Intriguing psychological drama

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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April 8, 1996 -- ``Primal Fear'' is a movie about the trial of a man accused of brutally killing the Archbishop of Chicago. The story, based on a novel by William Diehl, wallows in political intrigue and red herrings.

Director Gregory Hoblit develops the film smoothly, but the courtroom details don't ring true. Defense attorney Martin Vail (played by Richard Gere in a very good performance) gets away with stuff in the courtroom only an actor in a loosely-scripted film could get away with.

Vail's stuttering defendant, Aaron Stampler, is well played by Edward Norton. It is similar to Kevin Spacey's Oscar-winning role in ``The Usual Suspects.'' It is a very showy role and very pivotal in the scheme of the movie, just as Spacey's was. Do you suppose it could happen again? Could the Academy award an Oscar to someone who is playing an actor rather than a character? We'll see.

Laura Linney plays Gere's opponent, prosecutor Janet Venable. She does a great job with a tough role. Alfre Woodard has the toughest role as the judge who lets the trial go out of control, but still looks competent.

While the courtroom scenes are a little weak, the scenes outside the courtroom are very good. The ending of the film, which also takes place outside the courtroom, is a real shocker.

This film rates a B.

Click here for links to places to buy this movie in video and/or DVD format, the soundtrack, books, even used videos, games and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)