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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 Andrew Hicks
2½ stars out of 4

THE RAINMAKER carries on the tradition of transforming John Grisham novels into big screen blockbusters. This one, though, leans less toward the early Grisham action thrillers like THE FIRM and THE PELICAN BRIEF and more toward the courtroom drama of A TIME TO KILL and THE CHAMBER. It's about a young, white- bread lawyer who overcomes the odds and scores a victory for the less fortunate, and it's preachy as hell. However, with director Francis Ford Coppola at the helm of a large, likeable cast, THE RAINMAKER refuses to sink under the weight and predictability of the storyline.

Matt Damon is the hero this time around, just out of law school and cramming for the bar exam. He takes a job with a shyster (Mickey Rourke) who sets his lawyers up on a commission basis and sends them out to chase ambulances. Damon learns the ropes from an older, wiser, unlicensed associate (Danny DeVito) and gets his first clients, an old lady changing her will (Teresa Wright) and a not-as-old lady (Mary Kay Place) whose son is dying of leukemia.

Just as Rourke gets nailed by the FBI and Damon passes the bar, he and DeVito partner up to form their own unholy alliance. Claire Danes comes along at about the same time, as a young woman whose husband put her in the hospital. Hers is the predictable subplot that will haunt the movie until the end, as Damon falls in love with her, she leaves him and they decide to go back and get her stuff. I assume this sidebar was trimmed greatly from the novel, but in the Cliffs Notes version THE RAINMAKER movie affords us, we see enough to know this is the same old Wife- Beater Gets His plotline with no new twists.

It's the Corporate America Gets Theirs plotline that most of THE RAINMAKER is concerned with. The leukemia kid bites the dust and the family sues the insurance company for wrongful death. The company denied their claim eight times, so he missed his treatment. There are plenty of courtroom scenes, much less sophisticated than we're used to, where young Damon has to orient himself to court procedures and fight off the high-paid insurance company attorney team (led by a sneering Jon Voight). It's never in doubt what the eventual outcome will be and which surprise witness will bring it.

As I've maintained these last four paragraphs, the plot is weak, and the constant sermonizing against both the legal profession and the e-e-e-evil insurance companies only makes the movie less appealing, but thankfully, the actors trapped in this story bring their own charm. There's a lot more humor than you might expect, particularly from DeVito and the two judges in the case (Dean Stockwell and Danny Glover), so the movie is worth watching, but on the whole, it's a low-rent A TIME TO KILL.

Copyright 1997 Andrew Hicks

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