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

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Universal acclaim- based on 50 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: 18 out of 18
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 18
  3. Negative: 0 out of 18
  1. Dec 19, 2012
    Os actores falam por si, talvez o melhor papel jamais desempenhado por Edward Norton. O Thriller em si é genial, talvez um dos melhores, simples, agradável de ver, boa qualidade de fotografia, papeis bem desempenhados, personagens bem caracterizado que nos agarra á história até ao fim surpreendente que é a cereja no topo do bolo! Expand
  2. Jul 27, 2013
    The acting in this film is outstanding. Edward Norton was absolutely amazing and the twist really makes this better than your average courtroom drama. Really good film, kept me on the edge of my seat for sure. Expand
  3. May 3, 2013
    Chock-full of dazzling "holy sh*t" moments, "Primal Fear" not only delivers intrigue as a fascinating courtroom drama would, but it also shocks you the way a gripping thriller would. Collapse
  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. Sep 29, 2011
    "Primal Fear" is just a average lawyer thriller. But, as Tom Cruise did in "Jerry Maguire", it's the superb acting by Edward Norton that changes the tables of the movie's tone. Expand
  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 18 User Reviews