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USA 1997
Directed by
Francis Ford Coppola
135 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2.5 stars

Rainmaker, The (1997)

In hindsight you might think that this dutiful and detailed courtroom drama, adapted from the John Grisham novel of the same name was, along with Jack (1996), one of Francis Ford Coppola’s “hired gun” efforts but apparently the director, who also wrote the script, actually defended it auteurially.  Maybe so, but bar the top drawer cast, it is a far from remarkable film.

Matt Damon plays Rudy Baylor, a bright-eyed young Tennessee law graduate,who pops his cherry with a Memphis-based shady legal practice run by Bruiser Stone (Mickey Rourke in a small but winning role).  There he meets Deck Shiffler (Danny DeVito) who becomes his partner when things get too hot for Bruiser who has to leave town. Rudy has brought with him two cases, one against a insurance company refusing to pay out on a claim by a leukaemia victim, the other an old lady who wants him to draw up a will leaving all her money to a tele-evangelist. Bruiser has put him onto a third, a young woman, Kelly Riker (Claire Danes), who has been assaulted by her chronically violent husband. The plot weaves together these three strands with the main strand being Rudy’s David-and-Goliath battle with the insurance company whose team of sleazebag lawyers is headed up by Leo F. Drummond (Jon Voight).

There are no surprises here on any level. The judge (Danny Glover), kindly helps Rudy in his battle with the heavily-armed, hard-hitting Drummond, the leukaemia patient dies (leaving a heart-strung video message) and Rudy and Kelly hook up. All this Coppola keeps moving forward without histrionics or too much sentimentality indeed the tone at times approaches the comedic, particularly thanks to De Vito.  

Although Coppola largely skates over the Rudy-Kelly relationship The Rainmaker is a well-packaged something-for-everyonestudio film with a star-studded cast (in addition to those already mentioned we get appearances from Virginia Madsen, Roy Schieder, Mary Kay Place and Dean Stockwell) but don’t let Coppola’s name lead you into thinking that it might be anything more.




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