Unlike other John Grisham novels-turned-feature-films, The Rainmaker (Paramount Pictures) is not just another gavel-banging courtroom drama. Instead, the movie is fun and entertaining as it manages to find humor in the serious world of law.
Matt Damon (Courage Under Fire) plays Rudy Baylor, a wet-behind-the-ears lawyer who has yet to try his first case. Practicing law in Memphis, Baylor is quick to point out that the city suffers from an infestation of ambulance chasers, TV lawyers and other lesser forms of scum.
After law school, Baylor is forced to take a job with Brusier Stone (Mickey Rourke), a scuzzy TV lawyer who surrounds himself with legal sharks. Baylor amasses a few clients before a warrant is issued for Brusier’s arrest. He then leaves the firm.
Joining him as he starts his own firm is Deck Shifflet (Danny DeVito, Get Shorty) – a lawyer who failed the bar exam six times. DeVito is at the heart of the comedy in this satirical film, as his quips and barbs other characters to create instant entertainment.
Baylor takes the case of a boy with leukemia. Destined to die without a bone marrow transplant he cannot afford, the boy is stiffed by an insurance company. The insurance company’s lawyers pose a hearty obstacle for Baylor in his search for justice for the boy. Jon Voight (Anaconda) gives an outstanding performance as the head of the company.
Baylor is aided by Judge Tyrone Kipler, who is presiding over the case (Danny Glover, Lethal Weapon 3). Prior to becoming a judge, Glover’s character was a lawyer who specialized in fighting insurance companies. Naturally, and quite comically, he takes Baylor’s side as he enters his maiden voyage into trial law.
Outside of the trial, Baylor develops a relationship with an abused wife struggling to leave her husband (Claire Danes, U-Turn). Invariably, Kelly Riker’s problems force Baylor to chose justice over the law, as his cynicism toward the judicial system grows. This character development allows the audience to relate to Baylor – and to his imperfections.
Director Francis Ford Coppola is true to form as he manages to find the dark humor behind Grisham’s writing. Coppola creates a wonderful film that satirizes the typical justice thriller. Even during the most serious of scenes, Coppola brings out the humor in every nuance of a character’s personality.
The Rainmaker differs from the other films based on Grisham novels, as the movie contains both comedy and suspense. The members of the cast seem to enjoy themselves, and their chemistry abounds on screen. Coppola’s ingenuity with humor and the actors’ unlimited talents combine to create an entertaining movie.