TBTo the Screen

"Primal Fear" 

Edward Norton has to stop meeting his audience at some point of the film in jail.

“Primal Fear” is something else. Drama, revenge and twists merge to tell the story of a young altar boy named Aaron, stuttered and shy, who is accused of murdering the Archbishop of Chicago. Richard Gere is slick baby oil in a gray long tweed coat as Martin Vail, the hotshot attorney who believes Aaron is innocent. Martin later learns something that no Law Review could ever teach him.

This film exemplifies what is signature of a drama in the 1990s that thus has yet to be created in the new century of drama. The key of this film is the fine line between excess and access. Laura Linney plays Janet, Martin’s secret lover and on the prosecuting side for the late Archbishop. These attorneys attend fancy parties, drive shiny cars and worry if they can afford a pair of new Brooks Brothers loafers. For Martin, he was trying to win a case that he knew was lost when he saw the Archbishop’s blood seeping in Aaron’s clothing. He just wanted a big case to add to his résumé and it took him under water. What hasn’t change, as depicted in film, is how the news drives our knowledge. In this film, corruption is the devil’s advocate in building the city of Chicago.

Terry Quinn has a broom bristle mustache and no sign of gray hair. Frasier’s Dad plays the State’s Attorney and is also known in real life as John Mahoney. Andre Braugher and Maura Tierney play Goodman and Naomi, key people on Vail’s team. And then there is a Jon Seda in a pivotal scene for this film. You may never again see a VHS tape hold the motive for a murder.