Primal Fear [1996]

Newcomer Edward Norton became an instant movie star in 1996 with three amazing performances in Primal Fear, The People vs. Larry Flynt, and Everyone Says I Love You. Make that four amazing performances, because in Primal Fear he plays a young man named Aaron Stampler whose personality seems to be divided in two: one tough and cynical, the other shy and fearful. Richard Gere plays Martin Vail, the slick Chicago attorney who defends Aaron on charges of brutally murdering an archbishop who may have sexually molested Aaron and other boys in his parish. The courtroom suspense is nail-biting as the jaded hotshot Vail comes to care about the case and the defendant. This is one of the better legal dramas of recent years, with plenty of juicy twists and turns. Frances McDormand (who was soon to win an Oscar for Fargo) plays a psychiatrist. --Jim Emerson

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