Rainmaker, The

The Rainmaker is redundant proof that Francis Ford Coppola has lost it
permanently. If you thought that things
couldn’t get any worse for him after
the egregious Jack, wait till you see this two-hour infomercial on behalf
of the Trial Lawyers Association. Coppola seems to have used up whatever stores
of subtlety and moral ambiguity he was blessed with by nature on the first two
Godfathers, and now he is
as they say, mere melodrama. The vehicle of same is a John Grisham novel which,
converted to cinematic purposes, gives us a noble young hero, Rudy Baylor (Matt
Damon), inspired to become a lawyer by the civil rights movement and in defiance
(as he tells us in his opening voiceover) of his lawyer-hating, wife-beating

Lawyer-hating and wife-beating, indeed, go together in this film, which
cleverly starts us off with a real bottom-feeder of the legal profession, Bob,
Stone (Mickey Rourke) with whom Rudy gets his first job out of law school. But
Bruiser is soon out of business and on the run from the law, and Rudy is left to
open his own new firm together with
Bruiser’s lovable, ambulance-chasing
sidekick, Dick Shifler (Danny DeVito).
didn’t teach me to chase ambulances in
law school,” says Rudy with mild

you’d better learn quick or
you’re going to
starve,” says lovable Dick.

Dick is lovable because he believes, as we are meant to do, that
nothing more thrilling than nailing an insurance
company.” Why should we believe that?
Every time an insurance company is
by some contingency-fee lawyer like these guys, two people — at least one of
them a lawyer — win the lottery, and the rest of us have to pay higher
prices for insurance. The racket is a great one for the lawyers, of course, but
Grisham has to sell a lot of books and Coppola has to sell a lot of tickets to
non-lawyers in order for them to earn a crust. So they contrive to make
this attorney-enrichment scheme attractive to the rest of us by making the
lovable lawyers’ adversaries as
unattractive as possible.

For a start, the insurance company they sue, Great Benefit, is not only huge,
heartless, arrogant and corrupt, it is also, jointly and severally, stupider
than a load of bricks. Its lead attorney, Leo Drummond (Jon Voight) is a
transparent fraud, and he and his fellow Great Benefit employees leave a paper
trail a mile wide which allows even a tyro attorney like Rudy to
them on behalf of a heart-tugging family of poor white trash whose only son dies
because Great Benefit will not pay for a bone-marrow transplant. Why not?
Because the transplant is said to be an
procedure. But what do you think Rudy finds just lying around? A document in
which Great Benefit’s own medical
council advises it to invest in a clinic for bone-marrow transplantation on the
grounds that it is now a standard medical procedure! Gotcha!

If there were any doubt that Rudy the Lawyer is the good guy, he tells
self-deprecating lawyer-jokes
( “What’s
the difference between a lawyer and a hooker? The hooker will stop screwing you
when you’re
dead” ) to disarm criticism, and he
uses both his two fists and his lawyerly skills to save the comely and grateful
Claire Danes from another one of those lawyer-hating wife-beaters. He may also
work for an insurance company, but we are not told so much. So Rudy not only
gets the girl but wins the jackpot as well. Lucky at cards, lucky in love, I
guess. But, hey, John Grisham’s rescue
fantasies have made him millions of dollars, so what do I know? Somehow, I
managed to resist the manifold temptations supplied by Grisham and Coppola to
love Rudy and Rudy’s anti-insurance,
anti-wife-beating crusade, but all the signs suggest that you movie-lovers out
there will be seduced.

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