John Grisham’s The Rainmaker (1997)

Francis Ford Coppola directs Matt Damon, Danny Devito and Claire Danes in this courtroom drama about a just graduated ambulance chaser whose first trial sees him take on a massive insurance corporation.

I have typed this sentence before. We got a couple of Grisham adaptations a year in the 1990s. That’s neither a lament nor a call for a revival. All were starry affairs, filmed with golden brown autumnal palettes and containing bursts of physical jeopardy that seemed to have very little significance to the final outcome. Competent, mature entertainment that never threatened to be classics. The Rainmaker was somehow the best of these. Almost by accident. It actually feels like a trial drama rather than a thriller featuring lawyers which helps massively. Gun-for-hire director Francis Ford Coppola wrings some genuine pathos from the glum subject matter, jazzily approaching the busy ensemble and intelligent dialogue with a skilled confidence. There are some beautifully framed shots and personal moments that other directors would have carelessly edited out for studio pleasing slickness. The fact that such a fine cast (one that has the likes of Virginia Madsen and Roy Schneider as the twentieth billed names in the credits) is so well utilised must be down to him. If not a perfect film, it is, at the very least, his last great one… and considering the airport novel origins, that’s admirable. Damon makes a fine stab at his first lead role, Hollywood must have eyed him as a Cruise replacement in waiting but he actually harks back to a Jimmy Stewart or a Robert Redford brand of decency here. There’s something genuine and committed about him in a part not as automatically showy or testing as say Good Will Hunting or The Talented Mr Ripley. It helps he is surrounded by such a rogue’s gallery. Mickey Rourke is a smiling wolf, Devito a bottom feeding schlub, Jon Voight the oily personification of corruption. Among these fiends with Filofaxes, anyone could come away looking like the last bastion of All American pluck.


My Top 10 Francis Ford Coppola Movies

  1. The Godfather (1972)
  2. Apocalypse Now (1979)
  3. The Conversation (1974)
  4. The Godfather Part 2 (1974)
  5. Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse (1991)
  6. The Rainmaker (1997)
  7. The Godfather Part 3 (1990)
  8. Peggy Sue Got Married (1986)
  9. The Outsiders (1983)
  10. Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.