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Primal Fear (Hard Evidence Edition) - Blu-ray DVD / suspense DVD review
Rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America curledupdvd.com rating: 4 stars
Actors: Richard Gere, Edward Norton, Laura Linney, John Mahoney, Frances McDormand
Director: Gregory Hoblit Studio: Paramount
DVD release: 10 March 2009 Runtime: 130 min.
(1 disc)
Format: AC-3, Color, Dolby, DTS Surround Sound, Dubbed, Special Edition, Subtitled, Widescreen , Blu-ray
DVD features: 1080p High Definition, Aspect ration 2.35:1, Audio tracks (5.1 DTS HD Master Audio - English; Dolby 5.1 Digital Surround - English, French, Spanish), Subtitles (English SDH, English, French, Spanish, Portugese), Commentary (dir. Gregory Hoblit, writer Ann Biderman, prod. Gary Lucchesi, exec. prod. Hawk Koch, casting dir. Deborah Aquila), The Final Verdict, Star Witness (Casting Edward Norton), The Psychology of Guilt, Theatrical trailer

In 1996, Primal Fear surprised moviegoers. A pretty straightforward murder case - or so it seemed at the beginning - opened up to become one of the most compelling courtroom dramas of the '90s.

Richard Gere stars as Martin Vail, a hotshot defense attorney who could probably get the devil off the hook with a slap on the wrist. We discover much about his personality from an interview he's giving to a magazine reporter. He's got a lot of nice ideas assembled into probably frequently used phrases about his beliefs in a client being innocent until proven guilty, and bad crimes being committed by good people. We get the feeling he's been through this a a number of times.

Vail takes a case pro-bono as soon as he sees the blood-soaked suspect running from the police on the news. The suspect is Aaron Stampler, brilliantly played by Edward Norton. Accused of killing an archbishop, he's quickly captured and discovered to be a quiet, unassuming homeless kid from Kentucky. Stampler came from an abusive home and was taken in by the archbishop. Stampler seems to be just the sort of guy who would never hurt a fly. He stutters nervously and always has such an earnest look on his face that he just makes you want to open your house to him.

The prosecution is headed by Janet Venable, played by Laura Linney. She and Vail have a history that adds an additional level of tension to the proceedings. Venable has trouble keeping herself from lighting up in public buildings. Her boss, John Shaughnessy (John Mahoney), is pushing Venable to get Stampler and go for the death penalty. He was a personal friend of the Archbishop and wants to see justice done.

Primal Fear was the vehicle that launched Edward Norton onto the scene and made him a household name. Indeed, even before he officially got the part, his audition tape got around Hollywood and he was offered a role in The People vs. Larry Flynt. Laura Linney got to be more frequently seen henceforth as well. The supporting cast is likewise excellent: Alfre Woodard, Frances McDormand, Terry O'Quinn, Andre Braugher, Maura Tierney - the casting is top-notch. There was a danger that Leonardo DiCaprio would be given Norton's role, though it would have been a mistake. An unknown was what was needed, and the right unknown was cast.

The Blu-ray version of this film is excellent. The picture is beautiful and the feel of Chicago so real you can taste it.
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reviewed by Eric Renshaw
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