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Primal Fear (Hard Evidence Edition) (1996) Print E-mail
Monday, 09 March 2009
ImageThere are few psychological thrillers that just blow your mind.  "Silence of the Lambs" is the most notable of them all.  However, "Primal Fear" follows a close second.  In 1996, the film made its debut to only moderate success.  Critics gave it fair reviews and audiences felt it was good entertainment.  However, the film has so much more to offer than mediocrity.

"Primal Fear" delivers stellar performances by Richard Gere, Laura Linney and of course Edward Norton.  The film was Norton's breakout role and it has garnered him success ever since.  Richard Gere's performance is of high caliber as always.  Laura Linney also delivers a performance with conviction.

Richard Gere stars as Martin Vail, attorney at law.  He is an egocentric attorney (what else is new).  He has to see himself on the cover of magazines and take the most notable cases.  He started out as a prosecutor for the State's attorney offense, but then went into the defense sector for the challenge, not the money.

Edward Norton plays Aaron, a shy alter boy that has been arrested for the heinous murder of the Archbishop Rushman.  Vail comes to his rescue, offering to take the case pro-bono.  Shortly into the trial, Aaron reveals another side of himself, Roy.  The trial is typical case of multiple personalities, or so it seems.  Unfortunately, since the trial has begun Vail cannot change the plea from "Not Guilty" to "insanity."  He tries his best weasel his way out of the hole he has dug himself and his client.

Laura Linney portrays Janet Venerable, the prosecutor in the Rushman case.  She is a real go-getter who used to date Vail when they were together in the prosecutor's office.  The two of them play very nicely off of each other.  They play a cat and mouse game that works out wonderfully on screen.  Janet is the one worthy adversary for Vail.  She predicts his behavior down to a "T," having a response for everything he does.

The film moves at a slow pace at times.  Nonetheless, the film has twists and turns that you never see coming.  Unfortunately, once you watch the film once, there is practically no need to watch the film again.  There are no surprises left.  The only thing to watch is the magnificent performance by Edward Norton.

Gegory Hoblit was the director of this film, and it was his first major foray in directing.  Previously he had done several television episodes.  Since "Primal Fear," he has gone on to direct magnificent films such as, "Frequency," "Fracture" and to some degree "Untraceable." I was pleasantly surprised by the video quality of this Blu-ray.  As the film was made in 1996 with poor production value, the video is remarkably preserved.  The black levels are weaker than I would like.  However, shadow delineation is decent in most scenes.  Colors are drab but well preserved.  Fleshtones fluctuate a bit from scene to scene.  In fact, much of the films issues arise from inconsistency.  Details and textures are nice and crisp.  Costumes retain their original textures.  There is some minor edge enhancement in a few of the sequences.  A few of the scenes also suffer from digital noise reduction.  The most noticeable artifact is the film grain.  However, I am glad that not too much noise reduction was applied to the image.  There is some vertical banding in the opening sequences are well.  Overall the Blu-ray offers a nice upgrade form the standard DVD.

Paramount gives us a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio track.  I was not expecting much in terms of audio quality.  It is typical drama, but still manages to contain a lively audio track.  The surrounds are used well for re-creating ambient atmospheres.  Each location of the film contains plenty of reverberant ambience to make the listener feel surrounded.  The LFE channel does not offer much for this audio track.  There are a couple of instances in which the subwoofer creates a startling effect.  The film's dynamics are consistent for the most part, but like the LFE channel the entire soundtrack jumps to startling levels at times.  The dialogue is for the most part clear and understandable.  However, there are instances in which the dialogue becomes muddy.  The Blu-ray edition of "Primal Fear" presents us with an audio track that is probably as good as it is going to sound.

The special features on this disc are the same as the DVD edition of the film.  The bonus materials have been upgraded to high definition.  First, there is an audio commentary with director Gregory Hoblit, writer Ann Biderman, producer Gary Lucchesi, executive producer Hawk Koch, and casting director Deborah Aquila.  There is plenty of information presented in this track, however, the commentary feels entirely too lengthy.  "'Primal Fear:' The Final Verdict" offers some standard information about the film.  "'Primal Fear:' Star Witness – Casting Edward Norton" takes a look at the film's breakout star.  "The Psychology of Guilt" takes a scientific look at the mental disorders in the film.  Lastly there is a theatrical trailer.

"Primal Fear" is a must have for any psych-thriller lover out there.  The video and audio quality are both better than the DVD, still it is not going to blow you away.  Recommend for fans of the film and newbies.

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