Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, February 25, 2016


Gene Hackman and Tom Cruise
THE FIRM (1993), Director: Sydney Pollack.

Mitch McDeere (Tom Cruise) is signed up with the law firm of Bendini, Lambert and Locke at a six figure salary with lots of percs. He and his wife, Abby (Jeanne Tripplehorn), are ecstatic, but there's a serpent in paradise. Partners in the firm seem to die on a regular basis, and Mitch realizes there's something not quite kosher about the outfit. Before long he finds himself between a rock and a hard place where his employers and interested agents of the FBI are concerned. Can he manage to help the agents without getting himself killed? Years ago there used to be thrillers that lasted maybe 80 or 90 minutes, included lots of plot twists and turns, and even at times a bit of characterization. The Firm clocks in at over two and a half hours, doesn't really have enough plot to sustain it, doesn't retain a grip on the suspense, and doesn't even include that much characterization. One problem is that the vastly overrated Sydney Pollack couldn't direct a true thriller if his life depended on it, and his attempts in that area always fail. The movie starts off quite well and sets up an interesting situation, but then it just plods along its dreary course until you lose interest in the proceedings. Cruise isn't bad, although he sort of just walks through it looking "concerned." Tripplehorn is better, and Gene Hackman [The French Connection] really steals the picture as a conflicted associate of Mitch's as well as his mentor. There are also nice turns by Gary Busey [A Star is Born] as a private eye, Holly Hunter as his secretary-lover (the murder scene involving both of these characters is one of the best things in the movie); Hal Holbrook as a law partner; Ed Harris as an FBI agent; David Strathairn as Mitch's convict brother; Steven Hill as another agent; and John Beal [The Vampire] as another of the partners.

Verdict: Too many characters and detours eventually add up to tedium. **1/2.


angelman66 said...

I think I like this one a bit more than you do, Bill, though it is a bit overlong and Mr. Cruise does a lot of blank-faced underreacting. He does have the face for it, though--used most brilliantly by Kubrick in Eyes Wide Shut--his face is like a blank canvas that we can fill in with our own unconscious!

Hackman, Busey, Hunter and all the other fine actors in this save it for me, and I was a fan of the book and thought this was a faithful adaptation.

William said...

If I recall it was faithful to the book -- interesting theory on Cruise's face. Perhaps he's blank because there's nothing upstairs, ha!