Sydney Pollack's screen version of the John Grisham potboiler is a long and disappointingly freeze-dried affair with a dully anticlimactic finish, but it's not without some exceptional acting. Grisham's take on the excesses of the '80s features a striving, up-from-poverty protagonist (Tom Cruise), whose Harvard Law School performance has landed him a lucrative spot with a leading Memphis firm. While it refers to The Stepford Wives (1975), the film's early sequences are more creepily reminiscent of Rosemary's Baby (1968), as the young barrister is welcomed into the chillingly restrictive legal "family." The plot's machinations go into overdrive as the firm's corruption comes more clearly into focus, and the film comes to center on the nearly incomprehensible plan of Cruise's lawyer to outwit both his employers and the Justice Department. Oddly, Gene Hackman has the most interesting role as a burnt-out senior attorney whose self loathing is reaching new depths, and, as usual, he has the skill to make this flawed man sympathetic. Both Gary Busey as a flamboyant gumshoe and Holly Hunter as a loyal secretary also score in well-written roles. But the firm's crime -- money-laundering for the mob -- is so abstract, and the scene of bloodless dealmaking which concludes the film so bereft of emotion that it's difficult to have any response when it finally grinds to a halt. The outstanding cast also features Hal Holbrook, Jeanne Tripplehorn,Steven Hill, Ed Harris, Terry Kinney, Wilford Brimley, and David Strathairn.
by Michael Costello review