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6 Degrees Entertainment

'John Grisham's The Rainmaker (Special Edition)'
(Matt Damon, Claire Danes, Jon Voight, et al / DVD / R / (1997) 2007 / Paramount Home Entertainment)

Overview: Francis Ford Coppola also knows how to bring out the best in a stellar cast, and this is the movie (released in November 1997, just a few weeks before Good Will Hunting) that signaled Matt Damon's arrival as a major-league star. Damon plays Rudy Baylor, a young rookie lawyer in Memphis (location of many Grisham stories) who takes on a powerful insurance company (led by a sharklike lawyer played by Jon Voight) by representing the family of a boy who was denied potentially life-saving treatment for leukemia.

DVD Verdict: Well here we are down south in Grisham country and here is Rudy Baylor (Matt Damon) who is an idealistic young lawyer but without the family connections of his wealthy law-school classmates forced the take a job with the shady-as-he-sounds Bruiser Stone (Mickey Rourke). Soon he has three cases come his way. First the case of the parents of a young man dying of leukaemia whose insurance company have refused to settle that will form the centre-piece of the plot. Second the case of a batty old lady (Teresa Wright), who wants to write her family out of her will in favour of some TV evangelist, who then becomes Baylor's landlady and finally his staunch ally. Finally there is Clare Danes as Kelly, a battered wife who has him coming over all male and protective and swiftly falling in love with her.

This is a very entertaining, very watchable legal drama. But, while enjoyable enough, it isn't very good. It's horribly clichéd in almost every way and often sickeningly sentimental, most notably in the scene where the now dead leukaemia victim's alcoholic father waves a photograph of the dead boy under the nose of Roy Scheider's baddie company exec. in court and more or less every scene that makes up the mawkish plot line revolving around Danes. It's all pretty efficiently executed and some of the clichés get recycled with a certain panache, most notably in the cases of Danny de Vito playing the lovable rough ambulance chasing lawyer cliché and Jon Voight playing the evil hardened old timer, Goliath to our hero's rookie David, baddie lawyer cliché.

These nice performances do a fair bit to distract us from the feebleness of the more central characters, especially Damon's and Danes and the spectacular unoriginality of the whole thing. Further evidence, I fear, in favour of the hypothesis that `Francis Ford Coppola' is in fact the name of two quite distinct filmmakers, a great one who made movies in the 1970s and an utterly undistinguished one who has been making movies ever since.

Now for the first time Paramount HE have given us this Special Collector's Edition that includes - for the first time - a commentary by five-time Academy award-winner Francis Ford Coppola and co-star Danny DeVito, along with some deleted scenes that are neither here nor there. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

Commentary by Director Francis Ford Coppola and Actor Danny DeVito
Watch The Rainmaker with Francis Ford Coppola
Francis Ford Coppola directs John Grisham's The Rainmaker
Deleted Scenes - includes Extended Beginning and Alternate Ending
The Rainmaker Screen Tests