1994, PG-13, 119 min. Directed by Joel Schumacher. Starring Susan Sarandon, Tommy Lee Jones, Brad Renfro, Mary-Louise Parker, Anthony Lapaglia, Ossie Davis.
REVIEWED By Robert Faires, Fri., July 29, 1994
“Objection, your honor! The protagonist is being willfully stupid! Again!” All through this adaptation of John Grisham's best-selling suspenser, I kept wanting to appeal to whatever court presides over the behavior of cinematic characters to make the chowderheads in this film stop doing idiotic things. Your honor, this kid, who has the mob after him because he knows where they buried a senator's body and they don't want him to tell, this kid not only doesn't let the cops protect him from the mob's snitchwhackers, but when he sees one of them heading for him with a blade as big as a Subaru, he doesn't just run away from the police, he runs to the one section of this hospital he's in where no one is around. Yeah, I think that's where I'd feel least likely to get iced by a hitman on my tail. And when the kid gets the thug trapped in a morgue freezer and then calls all these people, he doesn't tell any of them about the knife-wielding maniac locked up downstairs. Then -- and your honor, this was too much -- the kid persuades his otherwise sharp, savvy, tough-enough-to-go-toe-to-toe-with-Tommy-Lee-Jones attorney to leave Memphis, where they stand the best chance of being protected by the feds, and drive to New Orleans, just to see if the mob really did bury the guy where they said they did! I'm sorry, your honor, maybe it's me. I had this problem with The Firm and The Pelican Brief, too. Although all the Grisham flicks have been pretty much interchangeable -- gorgeous cinematography, high-power leads, far from inspired but serviceable suspense direction, and some star serving up a Southern-fried accent like a dish of hot hush puppies -- they've been moderately entertaining. Except for the characters doing all these stupid things! Things anybody with the IQ of Forrest Gump would know are stupid. Maybe that's part of Grisham's astonishing appeal: he gets the reader feeling superior to his lamebrain characters. This movie is much like its brethren: pretty, with strong leads -- the most fun is watching Sarandon match her heavy-lidded orbs against Jones' demon stare -- great supporting work (especially from the sorrowful Parker and the regal Davis), and a tense chase or two from director Schumacher. But it needed the judge to call for order, order in the script.