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Awesome: 30.91%
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Sucks: 1.82%

4 reviews, 31 user ratings

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Rainmaker, The (1997)
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by Rob Gonsalves

"Coppola sells out again; fairly entertaining, though."
4 stars

'The Rainmaker' is the sixth movie to be made from a John Grisham novel, and by far the best. The director, Francis Ford Coppola, takes the manipulative, potboiling story and digs in with both hands. This isn't as striking a case of sow's-ear-into-silk-purse as was 'The Godfather,' Coppola's masterpiece based on Mario Puzo's trashy bestseller. Coppola turns this sow's ear into more of a functional handbag with gaudily attractive decorations.

The Grisham hero this time is Rudy Baylor (Matt Damon), a struggling young Tennessee legal eagle who's just signed onto a low-rent firm (headed by Mickey Rourke -- that's how low-rent it is). In addition to chasing ambulances and sniffing out potentially lucrative cases, Rudy also has to cram for the bar exam, protect a young woman (Claire Danes) whose rotten husband beats her with an aluminum bat, pull the weeds around the house where he's a lodger, and handle the case of a lifetime: representing a leukemia-stricken young man (Johnny Whitworth) who's been screwed by his shifty corporate insurance company.

Everything including the dogs snappin' at his heels (when he first visits the dying boy, the family dogs bark at him) -- this is one beleaguered hero, and Matt Damon plays Rudy with sweet, deferential modesty. Coppola doesn't sell him like a bar of soap, the way Joel Schumacher hyped Matthew McConaughey in A Time to Kill. Rudy is eager and passionate but also klutzy and inexperienced -- we see ample evidence of his greenness in court. The slickster representing the insurance company, Leo F. Drummond (Jon Voight, clearly having a great time) welcomes the chance to squash this young gnat, but he seems to regret it, too -- Leo admires the boy's passion and envies it. "Do you remember when you sold out?" Rudy asks a grim-faced Leo.

The best card The Rainmaker has in its deck -- better than Coppola, even -- is Danny DeVito, perfectly cast as Deck Schifflet, a partner at Rudy's firm who's never passed the bar but has managed to absorb invaluable legal experience by surreptitiously practicing without a license. DeVito was hilarious as the crude, stupid father in his own Matilda last year; here, playing a smart man, he's just as funny, but also intensely likable -- even when he's bothering a bandaged man in a hospital bed and slipping him a business card.

Coppola also wrote the script, and I suppose he felt he needed to keep the abused-wife subplot to inject some romance (i.e., box-office appeal) into the story. Still, despite Claire Danes' touching performance and her gentle, tentative rapport with Damon, I could have done without the subplot. It feels unconnected to anything else in the story, and it leads to a conventionally violent confrontation. It's clear by now that Grisham relishes vigilante justice -- but only the good kind, of course.

'The Rainmaker' is nothing great -- just a solid entertainment whose likely success (on the heels of the successes of 'Bram Stoker's Dracula' and 'Jack') may restore some of Coppola's clout and grease the wheels for the projects close to his heart. If it does, it will have done its job. The question is: Does Coppola remember when he sold out, and how to do great work again?

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=461&reviewer=416
originally posted: 01/16/07 23:15:24
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User Comments

9/13/17 morris campbell very good 4 stars
5/23/09 Monday Morning Very good story & film because key characters played by great actors. Highly recommended!! 5 stars
8/30/08 Shaun Wallner This ones ok. 3 stars
8/21/06 Irwin Lublin I thought that the screenplay, the direction, and the performances were uniformly excellent 5 stars
1/04/06 R.W.Welch Has a rare wry quality in the early going; slowly gets more routine. Pretty fair overall. 4 stars
5/05/05 jordan springer shitty 1 stars
8/16/04 Betty Lewis Enjoyed the movie - unfortunately, the public may actually believe this can happen. 4 stars
10/19/03 John Bale Well directed adaption with excellent performances by Dillon and cast 4 stars
5/21/03 leon %%0qwe very enjoyable!ranks with time to kill for best grisham adaptation!book is better though 5 stars
3/23/03 Jack Sommersby By-the-numbers and impersonal. Still, it's watchable. 3 stars
11/25/02 Charles Tatum One of Coppola's few good recent films 4 stars
10/26/02 MarktheShark6 Highly under-rated; it's gotta be one of Matt Damon's best drama movies of the 90's. 4 stars
2/20/01 Jake Very impressive. Damon should stick to playing modest characters. 4 stars
9/01/00 Rosalie Coleman This movie tugs at your heart. A movie I would purchase fro my home library. 5 stars
6/06/00 TERRIE SMITH Good adaptation of the novel; Danny De Vito walks away with the film 4 stars
4/14/00 Elvisfan Very good, very entertaining, talented/great cast & director 5 stars
3/12/00 Trina Barnard Good movie. Book is better! 4 stars
1/02/00 Lindsey I really enjoyed this movie, another good John Grisham. Matt Damon was great as well! 5 stars
1/01/00 Anthony Burroughs Very good, the best of Grisham movies, Matt was great as always 5 stars
10/07/99 Igor It's bad for great director, but it's nice for unknown one. 3 stars
4/28/99 Matt&Danny Kudos to Matt - much more believeable as a young Memphis lawyer than Tom Cruise (The Firm) 5 stars
3/01/99 Rachel Though I hated the only other Grisham flick I've seen, this one was brilliant 5 stars
2/19/99 Piz Emotional and dark, a look at the underbelly of law and beauracracy. Best Grisham piece. 4 stars
2/18/99 Derek By no means perfect, but well worth your rental. Admit it with me - Matt Damon can act. 4 stars
1/12/99 Melissa It's nothing outstanding, but definitely good. Damon is a great, he IS this movie. 4 stars
11/26/98 Mr.Pink Coppola's best film after Apocalyse Now. 4 stars
10/12/98 tom matt damon at his best---he really fit the memphis boy type---kudos to a boston kid 5 stars
10/05/98 katherine matt matt matt damon damon damon matt matt matt damon damon damon matt matt matt damo...... 5 stars
8/29/98 Mister Whoopee I quite liked this. Thought Damon was great. No arguments, good film. 4 stars
8/29/98 Johny cutting the claire danes subplot would have helped 3 stars
8/25/98 FrankG Would have been better if they didn't use the campy music to accompany Danny DeVito. 3 stars
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  21-Nov-1997 (PG)


  22-Jan-1998 (M)

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