As the sixth John Grisham novel-turned-movie, The Rainmaker is a gripping legal drama, as opposed to the usual young-novice-on-the-lam thriller usually churned out by the prolific author's pen. Skillfully directed by Francis Ford Coppola, the story deals with different forms of social oppression and delivers an emotional, powerful punch.
Rudy Baylor (Matt Damon) is an idealistic young lawyer who sets his hopes on becoming a "rainmaker" (a highly paid lawyer). Desperate to find work, Rudy joins a law firm that is run by seedy lawyer Bruiser Stone (Mickey Rourke). This is where Rudy gets his first taste of the underbelly of the legal world.
After Bruiser's firm is shut down, Rudy and co-worker Deck Shifflet (Danny De Vito), a paralawyer, start their own firm with one major lawsuit that they must handle.
The big case involves a large insurance company taking advantage of a leukemia patient from a low-income family.
Rudy has to fight against a big corporate monster represented by the sly Leo F. Drummond (Jon Voight). It's the classic battle between a new-school fish and an old-school shark, and Coppola masterfully creates a first-rate film that brims with tension.
The courtroom disputes between the two lawyers are brilliantly orchestrated. Rudy exhibits an odd blend of cleverness and naiveté in his attempts to help his client, and Damon nicely plays it out.
Deck advises and helps Rudy, and even though Deck has failed the bar exam numerous times, he knows the mechanics of the law system.
Rudy is faced with another issue besides the court case. He also wants to help Kelly Riker (Claire Danes), a young victim of spousal abuse. Inevitably, Rudy develops feelings for her when he sees Kelly in an abused state at the hospital.
Both of the main issues in The Rainmaker deal with injustice. Coppola's inclusion of a narrative also helps the audience witness the maturation of Rudy Baylor. His experiences alter his way of thinking, which is exposed through his wry sense of humor. Priorities are changed within these experiences.
The cast, which also includes Mary Kay Place, Danny Glover, Roy Scheider and Red West, is unanimously superb in its acting skills. There is not a weak link to be found.
Coppola does an excellent job directing this powerful drama. Unlike many other legal movies, The Rainmaker allows the audience to achieve an understanding of the emotions felt by a lawyer during the courageous battle for righteousness.