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The Rainmaker

movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: The Rainmaker

Starring: Matt Damon, Danny DeVito
Director: Francis Ford Coppola
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 133 Minutes
Release Date: November 1997
Genres: Drama, Suspense

*Also starring: Claire Danes, Jon Voight, Mary Kay Place, Dean Stockwell, Teresa Wright, Virginia Madsen, Mickey Rourke, Andrew Shue

Review by Walter Frith
2½ stars out of 4

As it moves from one scene to the next, 'The Rainmaker' contains no real surprises. What it does have is marvelous acting by the entire cast, some of whom are underwritten and others that we don't see enough. Directed by Francis Ford Coppola and written by Coppola himself based on John Grisham's book it reminded me of those films Coppola made from 1981 to 1990 that were very low key but mildly effective and primarily well acted. Among them, 'The Outsiders', 'Rumble Fish', 'Peggy Sue Got Married' and 'Gardens of Stone' spring to mind first. They were made when Coppola dropped 'Ford' from his full name and went by the credit Francis Coppola. Only 'The Godfather Part III' and Bram Stoker's 'Dracula' have stood out in the 1990's for Coppola.

Set in Memphis, Tennessee, 'The Rainmaker' is about a low-income family who sue a gigantic insurance company for fraud and later wrongful death when their son develops leukemia and can't get a bone marrow transplant because the family's insurance claim for funding it is denied. The attorney representing them is a young and inexperienced newcomer to the legal profession (Matt Damon) who is trying his first case. His assistant is a man who knows the law pretty well but strangely enough has failed the bar exam exam six times (Danny DeVito).

The lawyer representing the insurance company is a cold and calculating smoothy acted in high capacity by Jon Voight who shines as the best villain in a courtroom since James Mason in 1982's 'The Verdict'. The courtroom scenes are realistic and convincing as the usual legal motions are accepted and declined and the twists in momentum from side to side make it hard to figure out how things will be resolved.

The ending is not as clear cut as you might predict and the only thing that took away from the film's major enjoyment is a sub plot involving Damon's relationship with a young woman (Claire Danes) who is caught in an abusive relationship with a husband who almost kills her. I felt this served as a serious distraction from the film's overall impact involving the trial. Another handicap for the film is the under played and under written part DeVito plays in this movie. He is a reasonably good actor if the right part is there and he is not used to his full potential here. Although it is never moving but a film that deserves to be respected, 'The Rainmaker' is no classic but does have a good performance from its lead in Matt Damon and Coppola proves again that his demand for first rate casting will not be compromised.

Copyright 1997 Walter Frith

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