Rudy Baylor is a young attorney out to make a difference in the justice system. He is also the only hope of an elderly couple after their corrupt insurance company refuses to payout a claim that could save their child's life. In this judicial drama, Baylor rails against corporate lawyers, corrupt judges, and abusive husbands, all with the help of a fellow lawyer who hasn't even passed his bar exam. He is facing long odds in the courtroom - and this is only his first case.Written by
Steve Richer <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The second film, in which Danny DeVito appeared, released one month apart. The other was L.A. Confidential (1997), which opened in September 1997. See more »
When handed a computer printout to read on the stand, Wilfred Keeley played by Roy Scheider opens the printout like a book and finds the data. Closeups show the printout is in landscape mode and couldn't be read as Keeley does. As the reading wasn't challenged by Baylor (Matt Damon) the position of the printout wasn't scripted. See more »
My father hated lawyers all his life. He wasn't a great guy, my old man. He drank and beat up my mother; he beat me up too. So you might think I became a lawyer just to piss him off. But you'd be wrong. I wanted to be a lawyer ever since I read about the Civil Rights lawyers in the 50s and 60s, and the amazing uses they found for the law. They did what a lot of people thought was the impossible. They gave lawyers a good name. And so I went to law school. And it did piss my father ...
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There is a credit for "Poet in Residence". See more »
Readers of John Grisham's book will find this film rather less of a thriller and more of a courtroom drama, albeit with a curious flat feel to it. The story is that of a legal action on behalf of a teenage boy denied coverage for an expensive bone marrow transplant by his family's medical insurer. Changes to the plotline to accommodate the story to the demands of film drama have removed the unique feature of the book a largely successful attempt to make the details of legal civil procedure interesting. Francis Coppola is a very innovative yet conventional director (you could credit him with authorship of several current movie clichés) and his storylines develop according to convention. Thus the love affair, which is completely extraneous to the main storyline in the book, is pumped up, and the fascinating battle of wits between the lawyers played down. As in the book, Rudy is the tyro David up against the experienced Goliath, Drummond, but Rudy's inexperience is played up to the point that you wonder how he got this far. The trial judge, who in the book is extremely helpful to Rudy, is replaced in the film by a sympathetic but much more impartial figure. In Hollywood conventional courtroom drama, His Honor or Her Honor doesn't take sides.
That said, there is much to enjoy. Danny de Vito, playing Deck the paralegal (or `paralawyer' as Rudy names him) who can't seem to pass the bar exam, is just brilliant. His Deck is a disheveled, unimpressive little guy who is nonetheless good at what he does, `rainmaking' or finding new business. His strengths are his intelligence, his energy and his lack of pride; he is quite happy to chase ambulances and give cops backhanders for information. His ethics are simple: fight for your client, don't steal and try not to lie. While the Deck of the book verges on the grotesque, De Vito makes him less of an oddball and hence more sympathetic. Matt Damon as Rudy is wetter behind the ears and not such a quick learner as the Rudy of the book, but every so often he connects and we understand how he feels. Mickey Rourke is a bit too elegant as Bruiser, Rudy's erstwhile mentor, (who wears cufflinks on a tropical beach?) but it's also an enjoyable performance. Although the script tones down his role, John Voight is nastily urbane as superlawyer Drummond.
Once again we have a courtroom drama filmed in a grand but gloomy courtroom, in fact the lighting people seem to have been absent. We hardly get a glimpse of the face of one important minor character, Cliff the wife-beater, (Andrew Shue) yet there is no apparent reason for this. The way some of the scenes were strung together, and started and finished were vaguely familiar, and half way through it hit me - ` The Godfather', where scenes just seem to begin and end without any particular reason.
One thing the film does almost as well as the book is send the message (sorry Mr Goldwyn) that America needs to do something about its medical insurance system, if the present chaotic mess can be so described. The court system, while not perfect, comes out of it a bit better (David is able to beat Goliath fair and square) but as for lawyers well, let's just say things would be a lot better if they stuck to Deck's minimal ethics. The story also might explain why John Grisham (who has a walk-on role as a lawyer at an al fresco deposition) gave up the law to write books, thus bringing pleasure to millions instead of (hopefully) winning retribution for a few.
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