PRIMAL FEAR! 1996

primal-fear

I loved it and now I’m going to review it. (CONTAINS SPOILERS.)

Now, to be honest, when I first saw the first few minutes of this film I thought that it was going to be a True Movie style film where there is a massive obstacle which is overcome in a massive unlikely way. I was very, very wrong.

I brought this while ordering DVDs online and it was a bit of a random decision because I had never seen the film before. I was only aware of the premise and that it had Richard Gere and Edward Norton in it.

The story begins with a successful lawyer, Martin Veil, who talks to his colleagues about truth and guilt. And then we see the innocent looking altar-boy, Aaron, who is introduced in a scene with his church choir. Then of course you have your typical outspoken blonde woman, the love interest, Janet Venable, who is also a lawyer and works as a prosecutor.

And then the ‘beloved’ archbishop is killed (I had a feeling the scene was probably an homage to Psycho.) we are introduced to Aaron properly as he runs across a train track as the police pursue him. Martin decides to defend Aaron pro-bono.

In the cell, Aaron comes across as defenceless and weak. He is nervous, and stammers. He reveals to Martin that he was an altar-boy at the church and that the archbishop ‘saved’ him. However, when asked about the murder he says that he ‘blacks out’ and that a third person committed the murder, instead of him.

The news channels cover the case extensively, and Aaron is called ‘the Butcher Boy’ by the press. Martin also asks Aaron about Linda.

It seems that (SPOILER) Aaron isn’t the only one with the two personalities. The archbishop had two personalities in regards to his life – the good side, where he helped people and charities, and the other where he abused children and filmed it because he ‘got off’ on it. At this point, Aaron’s second, ‘evil’ personality comes through.

The evil side of him has the name ‘Roy’ and throughout the film we see it occur more and more. It seems that he used the duo-personality because of the abuse he received from his father when growing up. However, Janet scoffs at the DPD prognosis.

Aaron is goaded constantly by Martin, and he switches to his evil persona to the view of everyone before he almost strangles the prosecutor before he is detained.

And then, there is the ending. That is the best bit of the whole film for me. Not because it is the ending, but because it is such a fantastic exchange by the two actors. Apparently a lot of it was ad-libbed. We see Aaron’s gentle persona be befuddled about ‘what happened’ and perhaps the audience are fooled into thinking that the good Aaron will be going to a hospital to get good care. We are fooled to think that maybe there’ll be a happy ending. However, when he says about Janet’s neck, it becomes chillingly clear that he DID remember. He also blithely confesses to killing Linda, and when it is all revealed that the persona of ‘Aaron’ didn’t exist…For some reason, my favourite bit of that scene was when Aaron/ Roy clapped after it had finally hit home to Martin that he had been fooled. I have no idea why I liked that scene at all. I just did.

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Richard Gere was okay as the lawyer, but I loved Edward Norton’s performance because I am a big fan of his films and it was fantastic, especially as it was his first major film role. He always brings something to his roles, whether it be the ad-lib stammer or just facial expressions. As the film progressed and we saw more of his dangerous personality, it was the sort of performance that makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up.

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