Enter Martin Vail. This is exactly the type of case he's been looking for. He's the only one who believes Aaron's story. Aaron claims there was someone else in the room, which the evidence does not support. He has no idea what happened since he blacked out a common occurrence for him when he saw what had been done to the bishop. When he came to he tried to help and that's why he was covered in blood. Aaron is such a sweet, simple boy, who speaks with a stutter. He's incapable of hurting a fly, never mind stabbing someone to death. Martin can't wait to prove him innocent. None of his colleagues, nor his ex-girlfriend Janet (Linney), who happens to be the prosecuting attorney, can understand why he would accept a case where the accused is so obviously guilty. There's no evidence against anyone but Aaron.
That's the challenge for Martin. As the trial nears, he plays every card he can get his hands on or think up. What he discovers about both victim and client is beyond his wildest imaginings. Both are guilty of the unthinkable and each pays the price. Gere and Norton are amazing together as the slick lawyer and his country bumpkin client. Their bond one of desperation as they try to create a defense that the jury will believe and keep Aaron out of the electric chair. These scenes are the core of the film, full of nuances and surprises that will keep you guessing what really happened right up to the film's final moments. I don't want to reveal anything because it will ruin the affect. Needless to say, the end stunned me and that's pretty hard to do.
If you like courtroom dramas, PRIMAL FEAR is one of the best to come out in a long time. It is well-written, intelligent and original, which is a hard thing to pull off in this genre these days. The acting is first rate. I even enjoyed watching Gere strut around. If he was really an attorney and I needed one, I'd hire him in a second. A note of caution for the squeamish set: the murder scene is extremely graphic, so look away if that kind of thing bothers you.