Rated: PG-13 for obscenities and adult themes. Reviewed by: Chris Release date: July 20, 1994 Released by: Warner Brothers
Susan Sarandon plays strong-willed, ex-alcoholic Memphis lawyer, Reggie Love. Eleven-year-old Mark Sway (Brad Renfro) becomes her only client when he hires her to protect him from both the mob and federal prosecutors.
Mark and his younger brother, Ricky witness a suicide in the woods behind their small trailer. A New Orleans mob lawyer chooses the boy's hiding place to kill himself. But, before he does, he discovers Mark and forces him into his car. Drunk and high on pills, the man tells Mark that the reason he's killing himself is that he knows where the mob hid the body of a U.S. Senator.
The suicide sends Ricky into a coma and police combing the wooded area. When the police find evidence that Mark was inside the dead man's car, Mark searches for a lawyer to help him deal with the press, police, the mob and federal attorneys who descend on him.
Mark's life is turned upside down. His brother is in the hospital in a coma, his mother (Mary Louis Parker) loses her job and he's scared that if he tells what he knows, he'll be killed by the goons who have threatened him. He and Reggie are two damaged souls who need one another.
Tommy Lee Jones plays U.S. attorney Roy Foltrigg, an ambitious prosecutor who is hot on the trail of Barry "The Blade" (Anthony LaPaglia). Foltrigg knows "The Blade" killed the Senator, but without the body he doesn't have a case. Although it's a small part, Foltrigg is a flashy publicity seeker and Jones is impressive in the part.
Newcomer Renfro is very good as Mark. He's tough and used to taking care of himself and his little brother, but he's taken on more than he can handle here and his vulnerability is evident.
Sarandon is marvelous as Reggie. She shows just the right amount of activism as she fiercely defends her client and tempers it with maternal care. The best scenes are when she and Jones square off and she beats the good-ole-boy prosecutor at his own game.
Adapted from the novel by John Grisham, it fares much better than did his earlier book The Firm. Fans of that book were upset when they flocked to see it and discovered that the ending was rewritten. The screenplay of The Client follows the original closely, and if anything, the drama is more intense.
Directed by Joel Schumacher (Falling Down), The Client has everything to make it this year's best thriller; strong, interesting character suspense and a good dramatic story.