You really can't fault any of the performers here. Tom Cruise has a boyish high-school handsomeness and an unthinkingly naive demeanor to go with it. Jeanne Triplehorn has big dark soulful eyes and does and says what she's supposed to. But the lesser actors are the more interesting. And they are here in droves. Gene Hackman, the late What's-his-name Viterelli (I can only think of him as "Jelly" in "Analyze This"), Holly Hunter looking sexy and sassy, a hypomanic Gary Busey who, when capable of it, really delivers, Paul Sorvino who underplays (honest), Hal Holbrook and Wilfred Brimley being nasty, poor Tobin Bell as the albino who must have played a dozen hit men and mass murderers by now, Ed Harris now with a completely shaved head, Terry Kinney as the pale blond nice guy who conceals his demons, and Steven Hill as a ruthless FBI man.
The performances and the locations make this worth a dekko. This ought to be Sidney Pollack's turf alright -- corruption in a law firm and illegal activities by the authorities, the kind of polluted panorama that he often finds appealing. But somehow it doesn't come off. I haven't read John Grisham's book but it's hard to believe the plot could be as complicated as this movie. There were times when I was completely lost, especially towards the end when the firm begins to unravel and the chases and breathless phone calls start.
Probably the most interesting character's is Gene Hackman's crooked but very human lawyer. His scenes with Tripplehorn are really quite good, his hesitations, awkward silences, embarrassed chuckles, and vapid smiles. His last scene with her, as he lies half drugged in bed, is outstanding.
The ending is hard to swallow. Cruise gives the Feds just enough legal information to put the bad guys away for several years, based on the fact that the firm overbilled its clients and used the post office to do it, which is a federal offense. A clever move on the part of Cruise but I had a hard time visualizing these murdering wealthy perps doing any jail time. I mean, for what? For sending a client a bill that charged too much? That would put my plumber in jail, my doctor, my shrink, and a strange porno web site that I once unwittingly subscribed to -- but these guys? Nope. Even if they were convicted, I see Dershowitz handling the appeal
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