Primal Fear Hard Evidence Edition (Blu-Ray) Studio: Paramount Home Video Rated: R (for brief grisly violence, pervasive strong language and a sex scene) Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 HD Encoding: 1080p HD Video Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Audio: English Dolby TrueHD 5.1; Spanish, French Dolby Digital 5.1 Subtitles: English, French, Spanish, Portuguese; English SDH+ Time: 130 minutes Disc Format: 1 SS/DL BD Case Style: Keep case Theatrical Release Date: 1996 Blu-Ray Release Date: March 10, 2009 Defense attorney Martin Vail (Richard Gere) enjoys the high life provided to him by defending some of the most heinous criminals in Chicago. He has traded away parts of himself to make the big bucks not really caring, in the end, if his clients are guilty of the crimes for which they are charged. He enjoys a tenuous sometimes personal and professional relationship with the city’s lead prosecutor, Janet Venable (Laura Linney) and her bosses. He understands that crime and corruption are interpreted differently through the different sides of the streets. When a young Catholic altar boy, Aaron (Edward Norton) is accused of the grisly murder of the Catholic archbishop, Vail sees it as a way to bolster his reputation, so much so that he takes the case for nothing in return. Vail investigates the case with his legal team (including Andre Braugher, Frances McDormand and Maura Tierney) realizing this may be a case he cannot win. The investigation takes surprising turns as the psychological layers of Aaron produce stunning and dangerous new ripples to the defense, leaving Vail uncertain of his own capabilities, motives and place in the legal system. Primal Fear walks a delicate line between character piece and story piece. Each of the mains, Gere, Linney and Norton, all turn in great performances and they tend to make up for what is overall a weak plot stretched out way too long at 130 minutes. Director Gregory Hoblit is a veteran of such TV shows as NYPD Blue, L. A. Law and Hill Street Blues and he seems to be unsure of what to do much past the hour run time of standard network shows. There are several sub-plots peeking in occasionally to fill in the time, but none of them do much to help the rest of the picture. Fortunately, this early performance by Norton, keeps us riveted to the screen until literally the last minute. Norton does such a fine job of showing the nature of psychological duality that you wish the picture had been told from his point of view leaving the other actors in support of him. I’m no longer much of a fan of legal dramas, and this was one of the last ones I remember seeing theatrically many years ago. The courtroom drama format tends to engage the masses but I find the less and less compelling cases fail add anything new to the genre. In this day of sixty or so Law and Order’s or the reality based judicial shows, I think even the audience is growing weary. Primal Fear does little to rekindle the format, but it’s worth seeing if for nothing else than Norton’s birth as a star. Video: Note: I am watching this title using a Marantz VP 11-S1 DLP projector, which has a native resolution of 1080p. I am using a Sony Playstation 3 Blu-Ray player while a Denon 3808CI does the switching and pass through of the video signal. I am utilizing the HDMI capabilities of each piece of equipment. The Blu-Ray disc is encoded in the MPEG-4 AVC codec at 1080p with an aspect ratio of 1.78:1. The picture is shot very naturally yet the colors are de-saturated and weak. This appears to be more of a stylistic choice on the part of the film makers than an issue with the transfer. Black levels are quite good showing some shadow detail. The picture is slightly soft leaving some fine detail lost in the mix. Grain is evident in the image, but it’s only enough to remind you that this is film. A small amount of edge enhancement was noticed and even a little DNR as Gere looked a bit waxy in many of the close-ups. I noticed no dirt or debris in the image. Audio: The 5.1 Dolby TrueHD soundtrack was attained by the HDMI connection of the PS3 to the Denon 3808CI. The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track is serviceable for this type of story as most of the action remains in the fronts and specifically the center channel. Surround channels sounded excellent in the couple scenes in which they were utilized (such as the opening vocal piece by the altar boys), but then they are relegated to conveying basic atmospheric information. LFE’s come up infrequently and usually in support of the score. The soundtrack is clear, clean and free of any hiss or debris. Bonus Material: all items are in SD. Commentary by Directory Gregory Hoblit, Writer Ann Biderman, Producer Gary Lucchesi, Executive Producer Hawk Koch and Casting Directory Deborah Aquila: with this many people I’d expect non-stop stories, but the track suffers through quite a few pauses. When the participants do talk they relate almost all of the same stories we hear on the other documentaries. Aquila is perhaps the most interesting as she pays the most attention to Norton and his performance. Primal Fear: The Final Verdict (17:59): this is a fairly good documentary which was shot recently with Hoblit, Norton, Linney and others reminiscing about the movie. Gere is noticeably absent, but the others make up for it. Primal Fear: Star Witness – Casting Edward Norton (17:56): Norton gets the spotlight in this piece as the casting director, Hoblit and others talk about Norton’s excellent performance. It turns out many actors were up for the role, including Leonardo DiCaprio, but he was too tired to do it! Again, like the above piece, it’s actually pretty good as Norton talks about the challenge of the role and what he put into it. The Psychology of Guilt (13:35): several psychologists and judges discuss the not guilty by reason of insanity defense. Theatrical Trailer. Conclusions: While Primal Fear could have been an incredible “Law and Order Two-Hour Movie Event” on NBC, it instead relegates itself to a weak theatrical release. Fortunately, the actors make it worth seeing and it’s no wonder Norton has had the success he has. The Blu-ray disc is a nice package with a decent AV presentation and extras.