Urban Cinefile
"I was delightfully surprised that she was as good as she was, as professional as she was, as amenable as she was"  - Jonathan Pryce on Evita co-star, Madonna
 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Friday May 22, 2020 

Printable page PRINTABLE PAGE



Rudy Baylor (Matt Damon) is an idealistic young lawyer on the eve of his bar exam, chasing work wherever he can, but preferably in a big law firm where he could become a ‘rainmaker’ – one who can notch up lots of billable hours to rich clients. Instead, he gets nabbed by sharp eyed, tiger-lawyer, Bruiser (Mickey O’Rourke), a glorified ambulance chaser and opportunist scoundrel with various criminal activities on the go. One of his stooges, Deck Shifflet (Danny de Vito) is assigned to help him. Rudy’s sense of justice is outraged by two cases he finds, one of which will lead him into the legal battle of his life, the other into deadly danger and perhaps romance. The first is a medical insurance case in which a dying young man’s family has been refused a claim by their insurance company. When the Feds close in on Bruiser, Rudy and Deck make a quick exit from Bruiser’s orbit and set up on their own, continuing to fight the insurer – taking on the formidable legal titan, Leo F. Drummond (Jon Voight), acting for Great Benefit. At the same time, Rudy gets drawn into a domestic violence action – not as lawyer but as protector of the abused wife , Kelly (Claire Danes). Both situations put him to the test, and both situations stretch him to breaking point. As a young lawyer, he stumbles in court, but only on matters of procedure – not justice.

"Elmer Bernstein’s rhythm and blues-influenced score is in tune with the film’s own rhythms and its blues. The blues come from the basic premise that corporate evil in the form of greed and callousness is the enemy of the little people in our society. (‘Our’ strictly speaking meaning ‘their’, as in American, but it could be argued that it’s a universal matter.) The Great Benefit insurance company plays the villain, personified by both John Voight as its attorney and Roy Scheider as its owner. Voight is restrained, compared to his recent characters in U Turn and Anaconda, and that restraint – as this fearless lawyer who sold out long ago - makes him punchy. Matt Damon is ideal as the young innocent David to Voight and Co’s Goliath, determined and driven by the power of his purity. That’s how Coppola sees it, and it is largely Coppola’s cinematic acumen that makes this Grisham novel adaptation work. Of course, there is a lot of well delineated good versus bad stuff here, in its not-too-subtle mainstream Hollywood way, but compensation is at hand in the form of dramatic rhythm and compelling characters throughout. Claire Danes, Danny de Vito, Mickey Rourke (with a super sharp wardrobe), Dean Stockwell and Danny Glover are all outstanding; and this is Coppola’s great strength – he has half directed the movie the moment he has cast it. It is also Coppola who injected the film with an unexpected amount of humour, all of which is a positive in aid of the film and our enjoyment. Don’t wait for a rainy day to see it."
Andrew L. Urban

"While John Grisham’s trademark of green & earnest young lawyer-to-be is not new, in Francis Ford Coppola’s expert hands, The Rainmaker is enticing entertainment with a hand-picked cast of considerable appeal. This screen adaptation of Grisham’s works is perhaps the most successful since his second novel, The Firm, was brought to the screen. Coppola balances the underdog versus the establishment saga in the courtroom with the core love story (Claire Danes is luminous), and with the delightful presence of Danny De Vito, who singlehandedly is responsible for most of the laughs. De Vito brightens up every scene he is in, with a delicious portrayal of a street-wise, unconventional legal con-man who can’t pass the bar exam. Matt Damon is perfect as the idealist rookie lawyer with integrity; Jon Voight’s slippery eel, mouthwatering, while Danny Glover, Mickey Rourke and Roy Scheider each bring considerable weight to the project. Elmer Bernstein’s jazzy score colours the many varied shades with great style. A strong sense of reality is combined with eccentric characters and dark, wry humour, bringing a surefire winner to the screen."
Louise Keller

"John Grisham may be the best read book since God created The Bible, but the subsequent film adaptations were, one can say, lifeless and uninspiring. Along comes Francis Ford Coppola's take on Grisham's The Rainmaker, and presto, a film that finally works. The last time Coppola attempted to turn a literary pulp novel into a movie, the result was a little know gem called The Godfather. Now, Rainmaker ain't going to be a classic or anything, but it does remind one of the legendary Oscar-winner's abilities as a damn good narrative film maker, a fact that one could have forgotten with such misbegotten turkeys as Jack. Here, Coppola is back in true form, expanding the novel to include some much needed humour thus achieving the one thing Grisham can't: a satiric and ironic tone, an ability to poke fun at this almighty profession. Grisham, as a lawyer himself, probably wouldn't have much of a sense of humour anyhow, but Coppola does, so Rainmaker is as funny as it is dramatic. Much of the humour is derived from the wonderful work of Danny DeVito as Deck, the wannabe lawyer who hustles to keep his crooked partner's practice alive. DeVito's artistry is in full bloom here, and from first entrance to last, he's a pint-sized bundle of comic genius and finely tuned dramatic actor, delivering his finest performance in years. Which makes it difficult for poor Matt Damon to keep up, what with DeVito on one side and wonderful Jon Voight, deliciously malevolent, on the other, but he certainly manages to give an accomplished performance just the same. And Mickey Rourke, in this year of comebacks, is sensational. With a taught script by Coppola, coupled with his frenetic direction, The Rainmaker is engrossing entertainment, a wonderful example of characterisation and plot coming together in a seamless whole, a fluid, crisply paced piece of cinematic storytelling that never fails to push all the right buttons, and do so perfectly."
Paul Fischer

Email this article


CAST: Matt Damon, Claire Danes, Jon Voight, Mary Kay Place, Mickey Rourke, Danny De Vito, Dean Stockwell, Teresa Wright, Virginia Madsen, Andrew Shue, Red West, Johnny Whitworth, Wayne Emmons, Adrian Roberts, Roy Scheider, Randy Travis, Michael Girardin, Randall King,, Justin Ashforth, Michael Keys Hall, Danny Glover

DIRECTOR: Francis Ford Coppola

PRODUCER: Michael Douglas, Steven Reuther, Fred Fuchs

SCRIPT: Francis Ford Coppola (based on the novel by John Grisham)


EDITOR: Barry Malkin

MUSIC: Elmer Bernstein


RUNNING TIME: 135 minutes



AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: January 15, 1998

Video Release: Feb, 1999
Video Distributor: CIC Video
RRP: $24.95

© Urban Cinefile 1997 - 2020