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USA 1994
Directed by
Joel Schumacher
117 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
1 stars

The Client

If you hadn’t given it any thought to the title of Joel Schumacher’s film the opening scenes of two young boys gallivanting by the crick in the sun-dappled outdoors Down South somewhere as Howard Shore’s production line music builds in the background you’d prepare yourself for a nostalgically bucolic coming-of-age story in the manner of Robert Redford’s A River Runs Through It (1992).

But the “client” is in fact a legal one and specifically 11-year-old Mark Sway (Brad Renfro), the older of two brothers who have been brought up in the school of hard knocks (literally) by his single mother. He and his brother witness the suicide of a Mafia lawyer who it turns out is involved in the disappearance of a Mob boss. After being questioned by the FBI and a publicity-seeking federal prosecutor, Roy Foltrigg (Tommy Lee Jones), Mark realizes that he is going to need a lawyer. Enter stage right Reggie Love (Susan Sarandon), a woman who has pulled herself up by the bookstraps..

Adapted from a John Grisham best-seller perhaps on the page the plot read okay but on screen it is completely ridiculous, rather like some Boy’s Own Adventure re-hashed as an adult drama. Graham sold the rights on the condition that the boy playing Mark not be a professional but no-one seems to have  realized that having a pre-teen facing down Jones and manipulating Sarandon was going to take some doing. No doubt it required a lot of cutting around Renfro to bring off his scenes with them.

Jones and Sarandon are well in their comfort zones and they at least save the film from being a total flop but generally acting is perfunctory. William H.Macy is unconvincing as a resident doctor, J.T. Walsh sells himself as Foltrigg’s flunky but Anthony LaPaglia takes home the raspberry as a twitchy Mob punk.

Even worse than the implausible plot and the wooden acting, as that opening scene presaged, Schumacher’s execution is a unrelievedly routine and burdened by cliché after cliché. Surprisingly, the film was a success at the box office.

FYI :Although Renfro appeared in minor parts in a few more films he died of a drug overdose in 2008. 




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