Blu-ray Review: PRIMAL FEAR

Paramount Home Entertainment
Release date: March 10th, 2009
MSRP: $29.99

Director: George Hoblit
Stars: Richard Gere, Laura Linney, Edward Norton, Andre Braugher, Alfie Woodward, Frances McDormand, John Mahoney and Maura Tierny
Writer: Ann Biderman, Steve Shagan (Screenplay), William Diehl (Novel)

Primal Fear is best known for not only introduction actor Edward Norton to America, but also launching him to stardom.

Norton stars as Aaron Stampler, an awkward young altar boy accused of brutally murdering the Archbishop of Chicago. Not much more can be revealed about his character without revealing major plot-points. Suffice to say, Norton’s performance is the sort that makes one an overnight sensation.

Richard Gere plays Martin Vail, a smooth talking, arrogant defense attorney that loves the spotlight. It is this love of attention that prompts him to offer to defend Aaron pro-bono, knowing the media coverage will more than make up for his lost revenue.

But defending Aaron also puts him against his ex-partner (and lover) Janet (Laura Linney). Janet is the prosecutor and would love nothing more than to pound Martin in front of the media.

Gere and Linney both do an excellent job and have some serious chemistry here. Some scenes practically crackle with electricity. Gere was already a star, but Linney was still five years away from her first (of three) Oscar nominations. She holds her own admirably against the charismatic Gere.

The story itself is solid, but few would remember PF if not for the stellar acting. While Gere, Linney and Norton (especially Norton) all shine here, they benefit from strong work from frim the supporting cast, including Andre Braugher, Alfie Woodward, Frances McDormand, John Mahoney and Maura Tierny.

Video:
The film is persented in 1080p with a ratio of 1.87:1. The overall quality is solid, but there are some scenes that look a bit dull. The details are great, with buttons and zippers on suits and coats being quite visible. But the contrast is a bit soft at times, with the shadows looking less than crisp.

Audio:
The soundtrack is 5.1 Dolby TrueHD. Since there is very little audio gymnastics here, all that is needed is a healthy mix of music and dialogue. The track does this admirably.
Also provided are French and Spanish 5.1 tracks, with subtitles in English, French, Spanish, and Portuguese.

Extras:
There is a rather crowded commentary track that features director Gregory Hoblity, writer Ann Biderman, producer Gary Lucchesi, executive producer Hawk Koch, and casting director Deborah Aquila. They managed to avoid stepping on one another for the most part and offer up some interesting tidbits, but many of them can also be found in the featurettes.

Primal Fear: The Final Verdict comes in around 18 minutes and is your basic promontional featurette. It contains comments from cast and crew. Fans of mystery fiction will like this as it talks about the process of bringing the story from book to the screen.

Primal Fear: Star Witness is also just under 18 minutes and focuses on the character of Aaron and the casting of the (then) unknown Norton. Edward really shines here, coming across as very humble.

Psychology of Guilt clocks in at 13 and a half minutes and is the kind of piece I wish we would see more of. It looks at the insanity defense in the real world. It really compliments the film as it gives us insight into a key element of the film.

Also provided is the theatrical trailer.

This edition certainly provides a better collection of extras and the BD transfer is fairly good. Fans of the film will likely find this worth upgrading to.

Order Primal Fear from Amazon.

Jeremy Lynch
For more reviews from myself, and the rest of the Crimespree crew, check out the index of reviews.