Primal Fear is indeed a taut, thrilling courtroom drama filled with sweet lines and a great ass. Richard Gere supplies said ass as hotshot defense attorney Martin Vail – a man who has made a career out of massaging the law for his mafia and thug ridden clientele.
Eddie Norton) in the brutal slaying of a popular local bishop. But while Marty Vail thinks he’s riding a bullet train to Publicity Town, he’s completely unaware of the planned detour in What-the-hell-is-going-on-here-Ville. That's right, this slick plot is filled with scandalous twists and mephitic turns, but it’s the acting that really drives this film.
Gere is shrewd, arrogant, and impossible not to love. He’s the kind of guy who can stay out all night chatting up women in bars and messing around with his gerbils and then kick ass in court the next morning. But before you get too excited, I should probably note that the gerbils only have a minor role in this particular film.
Laura Linney also stars as Martin Vail's lawyer ex-girlfriend. In a move that shouldn't surprise anyone, she gets assigned as Gere’s opposing prosecution/love interest. Linney brings a certain intelligent foxiness that makes her more than adequate in both roles though I still liked her more in Congo (Just kidding. Ugh. Excuse me while I dry heave on my cheese nips).
Primal Fear is a little dated with its stuffy wardrobe and lack of cool gadgets (case in point: they use VHS) but that serves to keep it true to its Film Noir roots. Every once in a while you’ll hear some trumpet belting out a sad tune and you’ll think “oh yeah, I’m feeling me some Film Noir up in here.” And the dialogue is just crisp enough to keep that hard-boiled feeling going strong from beginning to end.
Primal Fear is a smart, well-crafted movie that is captivating right up until the very last scene. It may not be the deepest movie, but it’s definitely got a thrilling, taut ass. I suggest you stare at it intently and be prepared to drool a little.