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'The Client' is perhaps one of the many films that won't be enjoyed as much after one has read the book. I, having not read John Grisham's novel, quite enjoyed it. Sure the movie has its flaws in the form of plot holes, caricatures, obvious clichés etc, but it essentially manages to keep the viewer engaged. 'The Client' is further backed up by strong performances. Susan Sarandon makes full use of her powerful screen presence and easily stands out. No wonder she's an exceptional actress. Reggie Love is one of her most memorable performances (among the so many she's already given). The late Brad Renfro, as the young Sway, is very competent and does impress in several scenes. Tommy Lee Jones is funny (both intentionally and unintentionally). From the supporting cast, Mary-Louise Parker leaves a mark. William H. Macy barely has more than a few lines but has a dignified presence. The villains both look and act like caricatures. In a nutshell, it's an interesting film with a flawed but gripping plot and marvelous performances.
Susan Sarandon should stick with the tough minded lawyer more often. Perfectly cast in the role of Reggie Love, she brings a certain charm to a role which could have lacked in that department. And to make matters even tougher on her, she was almost outshined by Brad Renfro, who made quite an impression in a film such as this. While the film was put together in a rather conventional way, with Tommy Lee Jones playing an over clichéd character, the film is still rather gripping. A decent film to have in your collection, and one of the better John Grisham book-turned-movie adaptations.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This movie is completely formulaic, melodramatic, and contrived. Everyone
but William H. Macy overacts to the point of charicature, which is
appropriate, since the film is a charicature of its genre.
To be specific, I think the movie fails on 3 fronts:
1) The plot is rife with logical nonsequiturs. At the very core, the entire basis for the movie falls apart with any scrutiny. The kid is only a threat to the mob if he DOESN'T talk - once he talks, the damage is done, and he's of no interest to the mob (I don't think the mob kills kids for telling the cops what they know!). So, to protect himself, the first thing he would do is squeal. Even ignoring the big plot lapse, there are several aspects that leave you scratching your head, like why is it that the DA, who's trying to convict the mob assassin, is the BAD GUY in this? Why is the kid so mad at his lawyer? Why did the kid break out of jail - it was the only place he was safe! These nagging questions just go on and on as you watch this movie.
2) The actors overact. In the case of Tommy Lee Jones,he does a great job in creating a slick, manipulative DA (see above), but it is so cliche, as to be cartoonish. Susan Sarandon does a good job, also, but it's not really a role that should have been oscar-nomination material - aside from her past life troubles, there's not much there for her character. My complaint with her is that her character is, again, cliche. The most egregious bit of overacting belongs to Brad Renfroe, though I blame the director. As opposed to sympathizing with him, his yelling and cursing tantrums made me want to slap him. He was way over the top.
3) The movie was sheer formula; predictable, familiar. Little kid takes on the evil and/or incompetent adults - and, of course, wins. Throw in the rediculously cliche mob wiseguy, the slick media-savvy DA, the good-hearted, smart-as-a-whip, beautiful female attorney, the wise, self-confident unflappable southern judge (black, for good measure), and the secretly menacing cop, and voila! It's basically a 60's Disney movie on steroids. The cute, snappy repartee between the lawyer and the DA, wherein the (female, of course) 2-years-out-of-law-school domestic relations lawyer goes toe-to-toe and holds her own with the powerful, iron-fisted DA, typifies this movie.
Judging by the vast majority of other comments, I can see that most people weren't as put off by this rather typical John Grisham-Hollywood concoction as I, so it must be entertaining to a large audience, but please don't confuse it with good cinema.
Wow, what a cast! And they all deliver the goods too. Susan Sarandon is
an exceptional actress. Watch the scene in "Dead Man Walking" when she
visits the family of one of the victims. She doesn't just sit quietly.
She actively "listens" to them. And Tommy Lee Jones uncovers the comic
side of his dashing political lawyer. Even the eleven-year-old kid
gives a spot on performance, anything but cute, which is a relief. The
smaller roles are equally well done although there is less to be done
well. J. T. Walsh is always good. Mary-Louise Parker never makes a
wrong move as the stressed-out mother. Ossie Davis is a monumental
presence as the judge. Bill Macy is given only a few lines.
The script isn't bad either, especially in the first half of the film, in which the characters are being established. There are, alas, three clichés.
The bad guys LOOK like move bad guys usually look. They dress in black, have long greasy hair, are engraved with threatening jailhouse tattoos of barbed wire and things, and they never seem to enjoy themselves.
There are also two stereotypical scenes which really should have been avoided. In the first, the boy, Renfro, is trying to sneak out of a hospital. He pokes his face through a door into the reception room, where he sees his mother and two cops walking around. In the shadows he also spots the man he knows is trying to murder him. So what does he do? Does he run to his Mom and the police for protection? Certainly not. He does what aay potential murder victim would do. He dashes away from safety, down several flights of an empty stairway, followed closely by the squinter with a knife. The scene that follows is lifted straight out of "Coma," with the killer being locked in a refrigerator.
The other stereotyped situation is towards the end, when (just by the most improbable of coincidences) Sarandon and Renfro reach an empty boat house at the same time as three of the heavies. The two innocents try to avoid being discovered. There is a lot of tiptoeing around on creaky boards, a foot chase through some bushes, one of those scenes in which one person holds a gun on a second, and the second smiles and says, "You don't have the guts to pull the trigger," and walks up closer to the muzzle.
I've pointed out these weaknesses not because this is a bad movie. It's really pretty good. But the cast is so outstanding that any weakness in the story is the more highly illuminated.
See it, if only to see the range of facial expressions into which Jones is able to fashion his face.
Mark Sway is a real hero here, although he is not only a mere child, but a
disadvantaged child in the middle of adult power structures breathtaking in
their deviousness and casual cruelty.
The theme of youngsters forced by
circumstances into adult roles and responsibilities,
particularly in being more level-headed and mature
than their parent(s) has become as strikingly
common in contemporary literature as it was strikingly uncommon until about
a generation ago. But there are ample
parallels to real life in pre-Romantic history.
It is really our modern assumptions of prolonged childhood
adolescence which are abnormal in the fuller perspective of human
experience. Aren't we on the verge of these concepts'
retreating from the apogees to which western culture
pushed them in the 19th and early 20th centuries?
If so, this film is on the cusp of the trend. Yet it might never have worked but for the director's good fortune in locating Brad Renfro for the lead role. What a find! His earthy, protean spunk and obliviousness to any cute brown-nosing towards his elders, simply because they are elders, make him entirely convincing in the part. He is, I hope, on his way to being a great actor, but perhaps it will continue to be this film which shows his freshness most clearly.
Not that it isn't very taut cinema in other regards. The build up of drama in the opening scenes is superb, with acting, cinematography, and the score all combining to provide a seamless experience. As one critic put it, it starts like a house afire, and the fire never goes out. This is a film one can see again and again, noticing additional fine touches each time.
Back in 1994, I read this book and just like other John Grisham's novels,
with the exception of "The Pelican Brief", once I started reading, I
couldn't put it down.
Director Joel Schumacher and Screenwriter Akiva Goldsman did an excellent job keeping the movie within the storyline without doing a horrible "hatchet job" most do to novels.
In addition, there was an excellent flow to the movie. It kept moving along; There wasn't very many slow moments in it and it kept me on the edge of my seat.
The casting was great as well. I liked Susan Sarandon as Reggie Love, Brad Renfro as Mark Sway, Tommy Lee Jones was a perfect fit as the "Revered" Roy Foltrigg. Will Patton as Sergent Hardy, was an excellent sleezy and conniving officer.
When I saw Anthony LaPaglia as Barry "The Blade" Muldano, I didn't envision the greasy sleezeball he portrayed, but someone more tougher or perhaps more thuggish. But Anthony LaPaglia fit just fine.
This is a movie worth renting.
"The Client" is an enjoyable and well executed thriller overall. While the
directing, script and overall product are far from amazing and sometimes
quite bland, the Oscar level performances compensate for the easily
Perhaps the child of the title, Brad Renfro, can be annoying in parts he gives a decent enough performance nonetheless. Too bad about the drinks and drugs problem he has today. Susan Sarandon gives another terrific performance, this time as an alcoholic lawyer. Tommy Lee Jones' character doesn't have much to do with the plot but he's a welcome addition to the film, even though.
While it is easy to find fault with the film it's easier to just sit back and enjoy it. I chose the latter so I thought it was a good, if not spectacular movie overall. 6.8/10.
Somehow the plot holes didn't seem so glaring in Grisham's novel. Anyway, this is one of Susan Sarandon's many excellent performances. And Tommy Lee Jones gleefully chews the scenery here. You might think he is overacting, but he is really playing a character that comes across that way. Brad Renfro was an excellent find for this part. I haven't seen him in anything else, though. I imagine his Southern accent will hurt in getting other roles. Current TV stars Bradley Whitford and Anthony Edwards were non-entities in this film. It's a good film, not great. Grade B-
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The premise of the film attracts. On practice, this premise is half
successful and half average. There are scenes when it is good and
thrilling and also scenes which it leaves to be desired.
This was the film debut of a young and promising talent named Brad Renfro. And what a glorious start for his career! Not so much for the movie itself which isn't that great, but for his demanding role and especially for his absolutely impeccable performance. He was such a talented young actor, so lively, so energetic and so dedicated to his actings that it's difficult to believe and imagine that his life was destroyed by drug addiction and that, now, sadly he is no longer alive. He was 25 when he died. He was one of those "old school" young talents like you don't see in this generation, one of those really eternal.
Brad Renfro plays Mark Sway, a boy who (together with his younger brother Ricky) witnesses a drunk and out-of-his-mind fat, brute guy trying to commit suicide in the most unusual way: by putting one end of a garden hose in the exhaust pipe of the car and the other end into a rear passenger window, and rolls up the window, so that the carbon monoxide poisoning can kill him.
Mark attempts to prevent that unsuccessfully. But on the 2nd attempt, the insane brute sees what he is doing, grabs him and takes him into the car with him. The entire sequence inside the car is extremely intense. More than seeing, you can feel the tension and panic on Mark Sway: he's sweating, shivering and fearing what that crazy lunatic might DO to him. And his little brother is no less anxious with the stress of the situation. When the 2 brothers escape, the guy shoots himself in the mouth, a horrifying event witnessed by the 2 brothers. The younger brother goes into major shock.
Mark Sway lives a living hell since then. He is threatened by a mafia shark with a knife in case he tells anyone what he knows. The boy becomes so frightened that he is forced to lie and even speaks aggressively. Mark swears often, but even when he swears he's cool and cute.
After the beginning, another tense scene is when Mark is chased by a criminal but he manages to outsmart him. The story has a happy ending.
The best things about this film are the 2 most tense scenes I mentioned, the happy ending and the amazing acting by Brad Renfro and the kid who plays his cute younger brother. Brad Renfro's brilliant acting makes this movie better than it would have otherwise been without him.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
First off all, you should always read the book first. I think it is a pretty good adaption. John Grisham fans should not be disappointed by the choice of actors for the parts in the book. Especially Tommy Lee Jones, a personal favorite, plays his part well, and his scenes with Sarandon are the best part of the film. They keep testing each other and have some verbal clashes but in the end you can see Jones' character isn't as bad as he seems and he clearly respects Sarandon's efforts. Only negative comment for this movie is that it never seems to reach the suspense it is aiming for and so it becomes good entertainment for one evening but forgettable soon after.
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