Mixed or average reviews - based on 18 Critics What's this?

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Universal acclaim- based on 75 Ratings

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  • Starring: , ,
  • Summary: Guilty? Innocent? Those questions aren't for high-powered Chicago attorney Martin Vail (Gere) to decide. His job is to defend - especially if a case will put his name in the headlines and further his career. When Vail hears that a penniless altar boy (Norton) is accused of murdering the local archbishop, he snaps up the case, eager for the media spotlight. Little does he know that it will uncover a viper's nest of corruption, pit him against a prosecutor (Linney) who's his ex-lover, and test all his skill, judgement and even his win-at-any-cost attitude. (Paramount) Expand
Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 6 out of 18
  2. Negative: 3 out of 18
  1. A tight courtroom melodrama that serves up twist after twist like so many baffling knuckle balls, this film handles its suspenseful material with skill and style.
  2. Reviewed by: Barbara Shulgasser
    This is the sort of movie that doesn't become irritating even when it's predictable.
  3. Reviewed by: Todd McCarthy
    The major jolt is saved for the very end but, like much else in the film, it is overexplained and underlined when more simplicity and quiet would have provided the revelation with the power of a depth charge.
  4. Reviewed by: Alison Macor
    Norton's performance and the well-paced tension preceding the movie's climactic sequence provide an entertaining if slightly predictable thriller.
  5. Pared down to a farfetched plot and paper-thin motives, the story relies on an overload of tangential subplots to keep it looking busy. [3 Apr 1996, p.C15]
  6. Reviewed by: Andrew Ross
    It should have been sent straight to video. As a courtroom drama, it stumbles from one ludicrous howler to another. Were the movie's "legal technical advisers" on another planet while the rest of the world was learning about legal procedure courtesy of the O.J. trial?

See all 18 Critic Reviews

Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 23 out of 23
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 23
  3. Negative: 0 out of 23
  1. Aug 11, 2014
    Primal Fear has first rate acting from Richard Gere and Edward Norton. The plot is very clever and the
    movie has twist after twist. Primal
    Fear has Gere's best performance and is one of the best legal thrillers. Expand
  2. Sep 18, 2014
    Richard Gere and Edward Norton are brilliant in Primal Fear, an intricate psychological thriller.
  3. Sep 18, 2014
    Richard Gere gives the brilliant performance of his career in this riveting legal thriller. Edward Norton is also
    tremendously effective in
    his first movie role. Expand
  4. Jul 21, 2014
    suspenseful and twisting ...! awesome superb performance by edward norton richard gere,excellent script and direction, mind blowing ending, one of the greatest TWIST ending Film of All Time.! Expand
  5. NickH
    Aug 27, 2005
    A 47 percent? Bull. This movie deserves to have those numbers flipped. 74% or higher, come on! I really liked it. Ed Norton was great.
  6. Jul 15, 2014
    The plot is so-so but it's the amazing acting of Edward Norton and the solid lead in Richard Gere that turn it into something worth watching. I'd recommend it. Expand
  7. Aug 17, 2014
    I wish that the well-known twist in this movie had come with a little more power and wouldn't have been as predictable, but Primal Fear is engaging enough to work for a Saturday movie night. Gere and Norton give their characters a little more edge than what lesser actors would've done, and the story is only a few plot points short of plausible. Expand

See all 23 User Reviews