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
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