John Grisham’s The Rainmaker (1997)

DailyView: Day 363, Movie 518

There have been several John Grisham novels adapted to the big screen. The Rainmaker was adapted to the screen by Francis Ford Coppola, bringing another level of crime gravitas to the movie.

In the end, The Rainmaker was an enjoyable courtroom drama that included a top notch cast and a satisfactory conclusion.

According to IMDB: “Rudy Baylor (Matt Damon) is a young attorney out to make a difference in the justice system. He is also the only hope of an elderly couple after their corrupt insurance company refuses to pay out a claim that could save their child’s life. In this judicial drama, Baylor rails against corporate lawyers, corrupt judges, and abusive husbands, all with the help of a fellow lawyer who hasn’t even passed his bar exam. He is facing long odds in the courtroom – and this is only his first case.”

Matt Damon does an excellent job of playing this young lawyer, who was way over his head, unsure of how to proceed with the case or what steps he should take in the procedural process of the court case. Even with a supportive judge (Danny Glover), Rudy Baylor was clearly a greenhorn.

This is the reason why I believe that the real heart of this movie was Deck Shifflet, the character played by Danny DeVito. DeVito was exceptional in every scene, keeping Rudy balanced and helping find his way through the case, despite having failed the bar exam multiple times. Deck knew where to look and what to do, even if it is not necessarily the most up and up move. Danny DeVito had great chemistry with everyone that he interacted with and brought a realness to the role.

There were some other excellent characters, some bordering on eccentric. Mickey Rourke played J. Lyman “Bruiser” Stone, a bar owner and ambulance chaser who gave Rudy his first job. Virginia Madsen was here as Jackie Lemanczyk, a witness that Deck found whom may have major testimony. Dean Stockwell played a crooked judge originally assigned to the case who tried to railroad Rudy to a early settlement. Jon Voight played the opposing counsel, Leo Drummond, and the fact that Jon Voight can be an unlikable real life person helped play into this rotten character. He was certainly easy to hate.

I will say that there was a secondary plot involving a battered wife (Claire Danes) and her abusive husband that felt like it was included just to fill out the run time of the film. It had very little (if anything) to do with the main story, only providing a distraction for Rudy. While there was an exciting fight scene included, this entire story beat could have been removed without losing anything of value to the overall story. It would have helped with the length of the film as well.

The Rainmaker was a solid courtroom drama and some excellent performances.

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