S E A R C H D V D B e a v e r
Primal Fear [Blu-ray]
(Gregory Hoblit, 1996)
Review by Gary Tooze
Theatrical: Paramount Studios
Video: ParamountHome Video
Disc Size: 46,037,089,397 bytes
Feature Size: 37,150,230,528 bytes
Average Bitrate: 37.97 Mbps
Case: Standard Blu-ray case
Release date: March 10th, 2009
Aspect ratio: 2.35:1
Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video
Dolby TrueHD Audio English 3182 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 3182 kbps / 24-bit (AC3 Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 640 kbps)
DUBs: Dolby Digital Audio French 640 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 640 kbps
Dolby Digital Audio Spanish 640 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 640 kbps
Commentary: Dolby Digital Audio English 224 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 224 kbps
English, English (SDH), French, Portuguese, Spanish, none
• Commentary by director Gregory Hoblit, writer Ann Biderman, Producer Gary Lucchesi, Executive producer Hawk Koch and casting director Deborah Aquila
•'Primal Fear: The Final Verdict (17:59 in HD!)
• Primal Fear - Star Witness: Casting Edward Norton (17:56 in HD!)
• The Psychology of Guilt (13:35 in HD)
• Theatrical Trailer
Description: A high-profile slaying becomes the case of an ambitious attorney's career in this legal thriller based on the novel by William Diehl. Richard Gere stars as Martin Vail, a famed defense lawyer who volunteers his services to Aaron Stampler (Edward Norton), a Kentucky teenager charged with the murder of a Chicago archbishop. Covered with blood, Aaron was captured after a foot chase broadcast live on TV, making a gleeful Vail certain that he could raise his profile by defending the obviously guilty suspect. Assigned to prosecute is Assistant District Attorney Janet Venable (Laura Linney), who is Vail's ex-girlfriend. Vail's case becomes more complicated than he expected when a psychologist, Dr. Molly Arrington (Frances McDormand) concludes that Stampler suffers from multiple personality disorder. Vail also uncovers evidence that the archbishop was involved in a corrupt land scheme and may have molested young parishioners. Now the cynical, opportunistic attorney is faced with a daunting prospect, a client who may actually deserve his best defense. Its shocking, twist ending made Primal Fear (1996) a big box office hit and earned Norton, in his screen debut, an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor.
The story develops against a backdrop of Chicago politics and
corruption. The archbishop, we learn, was involved in land deals that
created a lot of unhappiness among powerful Chicagoans who lost millions
of dollars. He has received many death threats. And his relationship
with some of the members of the boys' choir was not strictly pastoral. A
Hispanic alderman, who defends the building of a clinic on land intended
to be "upscaled,'' gets into hot water. And Martin Vail seems to be at
the center of all of these events. Is it possible that young Aaron is a
fall-guy for a much larger, more sinister plot? The plot is as good as
crime procedurals get, but the movie is really better than its plot
because of the three-dimensional characters. Gere is given several quiet
scenes, including a half-drunken conversation with a journalist, to
develop the complexities of his character. Laura Linney makes more of
her fairly standard character than we might expect. And the supporting
performances--from John Mahoney as the hard-bitten DA and McDormand as
the psychologist, to Alfre Woodard, who plays the judge and presides
over a key scene in chambers--are strong and convincing. Edward Norton,
as the ``Butcher Boy,'' creates a character that is, as you will see,
completely convincing in more ways than one.
The image on Paramount's Blu-ray of Primal Fear has a softness to it that I find unusual even considering the film being made over 12-years ago. It appears to show some grain and I don't suspect DNR is the culprit for the lack of pristine sharpness. The image quality gives a decent presentation, superior to SD-DVD, but far from ideal benefiting this new format and is weaker in that capacity than I anticipated. I have no evidence to support that the film looked any better theatrically - in terms of detail. Technically it seems competent being dual-layered with the feature taking up over 37 Gig. Bitrate is strong - being well over 30 Mbps. Daylight scenes are more impressive and colors seem rendered faithfully with nothing looking overly exuberant. This Blu-ray image has a passive feel that seems to work for a lot of the film but, on my system, it never looked exceptional. It is consistent with decent contrast but those expecting dramatic 'Wow'-factor realistic visuals on this Blu-ray may be disappointed.
CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION
We are given TrueHD 5.1 which sounded sharp with some minor separations noted. James Newton Howard's original score produced some tense moments cascading to the rear speakers. There isn't an immense amount of effect noises prevalent, but what exists seems decent with some depth. This is basically a court-room drama and dialogue is primary. While the mix isn't exceptional or dynamic - I found no extensive flaws with it either. There are 2 foreign language DUBs and subtitles offered. This disc is reported to be region free.
Solid supplements are offered with a group commentary including director Gregory Hoblit, writer Ann Biderman, producer Gary Lucchesi, executive producer Hawk Koch and casting director Deborah Aquila each giving some input where they have decent recollections of production details. There are three featurettes - all in HD - 'Primal Fear: The Final Verdict' runs 18-minutes and has sound bytes from multiple cast and crew, Primal Fear - Star Witness: Casting Edward Norton is also 18 minutes and focuses on an unknown Norton obtaining the role from 2500 auditions. The Psychology of Guilt is 13.5 minutes looking at the legal side of pleading insanity with discussion from judges and lawyers. There is also a theatrical trailer.
February 26th, 2009
About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 7500 DVDs and have reviewed over 3000 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.
Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who
focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I
find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction. So be
it, but film will always be my first love and I list my
favorites on the old YMdb site now accessible
Sony BDP-S300 1080p Blu-ray Disc Player
Gary W. Tooze
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