Primal Fear

Primal Fear (1996)
Paramount Home Video
Cast: Richard Gere, Ed Norton, Laura Linney, John Mahoney, Frances McDormand, Alfre Woodard, Maura Tierney
Extras: Commentayr Track, Featurettes, Theatrical Trailer

In 1996 a film appeared featuring a young actor that no one had heard about but that clearly showed that he had the makings of a Hollywood star. The actor was Ed Norton and as expected, he has made quite a splash in the film industry ever since.

Martin Vail (Richard Gere) is a brilliant defense attorney who loves the spotlight and a good case that gets him plenty of media coverage. When one day the archbishop is gruesomely murdered and mutilated in Chicago, Vail knows this is a case he wants to be on. With a suspect under arrest, caught fleeing the scene of the crime all covered in blood, it seems to be a clear-cut case for the District Attorney, but Vail maintains the notion that everyone is innocent until proven guilty. So he takes on 19-year old Aaron Stampler's (Ed Norton) case pro bono and tries to build a defense around Aaron's continued assurance that he did not commit the crime and that a third person was in the room.

Vail digs deep in to the background of the archbishop and soon realizes that this popular man was anything but holy. He never seems to run out of leads or dirt in the case as the arch bishop was allegedly involved in various covered-up legal scandals, affronting huge financial interest groups, and others, Vail realizes that indeed there are many people who would have liked to see the archbishop out of the way. If only he could find a way to induce reasonable doubt in the jury to make sure his client goes free.

"Primal Fear" is an incredible court room drama that is filled with plot twists as more and more details emerge about the case. Featuring a stellar cast – Ed Norton's performance earned him an Academy Award nomination – that also features Laura Linney, John Mahoney, Alfre Woodard and Frances MacDormand, the film is gripping from the first to the last minute and even upon repeat viewing, the film will cast its spell over you as you witness that nothing is as it seems.

Paramount Home Entertainment is presenting what they call the "Hard Evidence Edition" on Blu-Ray, featuring a wonderful 1080p high definition transfer of the movie, complemented by a Dolby Digital 5.1 TrueHD audio track. The image is clear and without defects or notable grain, reproducing the film-like look of the movie very well. Definition is extremely good with a high level of minute detail throughout and the ability to perfectly present the film in its natural looking quality, which adds to the overall impact. Black levels are rock solid and deep, rendering deep shadows, while highlights are balanced and never bleed. In a word, the film looks every bit as good as you'd expect.

The audio is presented in a TrueHD format, making sure you get to hear the original master audio track without compression. The dynamics of the track are expectedly good and the frequency response is making sure every nuance and sonic texture is properly maintained.

You will find a commentary track on the release, offering up interesting and informative tidbits from the likes of director Gregory Hoblit, writer Ann Biderman, producer Gary Lucchesi, executive producer Hawk Koch and casting director Deborah Aquila. Considering the depth of the story and the success of the film it is hardly surprising that there is a lot to talk about in this commentary and the cast certainly delivers the goods.

Also included are a number of featurettes covering various aspects of the movie's making, such as the casting – with a highlight on Ed Norton of course – as well as the psychology of guilt. The release is rounded out by the movie's trailer.

"Primal Fear" is a top notch court room drama / thriller with a stellar cast. If you haven't seen this film you owe it to yourself to give it a shot and if you have seen it, make sure to give it a try on Blu-Ray because the film looks and sounds better than ever.