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  • Writer's pictureJohn Lim

MF 392 : Summer movie series: The Firm (1993) and The Rainmaker (1997)

Updated: Aug 13, 2022

This week, a double feature! I talk about two films that capture the essence of the once popular legal thriller genre: The Firm (1993) and The Rainmaker (1997). More at

Moving Forward is also available on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher Radio, Google Podcasts, Spotify, and Amazon Music.

Note: the summer movie series will air on Fridays.

Throwback to a once quintessential genre

The Firm (1993)

Mitch McDeere (Tom Cruise) is a poor, ambitious Harvard Law student who is being courted by the nation's top firms. He settles on a small Memphis firm that promises him riches and the world. However, something's seriously off as Mitch learns of several dead lawyers. As he investigates, he soon discovers that his dream job is a cover for a nightmare of corruption, organized crime, and murder. Based on John Grisham's best selling novel, The Firm is an exciting thriller with an incredible ensemble cast and a memorable score by jazz pianist Dave Grusin.

The good:

  • Fantastic ensemble cast that brings the story's intricate plot to life. Director Sydney Pollack confidently weaves multiple twists and turns without confusing the audience and keeps you entertained from beginning to end.

  • A memorable score that is mostly jazz piano, performed by Dave Grusin.

  • Satisfying ending that flows logically from the story and the skill of the main character. Although it deviates from the novel, I think it's a better ending.

The bad:

  • The story stretches credibility but you don't watch a movie like this for realism. It works as an escapist thriller with a happy ending.


  • **** (out of five)

Where you can watch The Firm (1993):

The Rainmaker (1997)

Another great legal thriller based on a novel by John Grisham. Rudy Baylor (Matt Damon) is a poor law student who graduates with a looming bar exam, a job offer from a shady plaintiff's firm that is under investigation by the FBI and a case involving an multi-million dollar insurance company that refused to pay the claims of a sick teenager dying from cancer. Outgunned by the company's expensive law firm, and completely overwhelmed, Rudy takes on the case armed only with his ambition, a partner who failed the bar multiple times, and a client he believes in. The Rainmaker is one of the best technical legal thrillers ever made.

The good:

  • An excellent look at the inner workings of a complex tort litigation case, including the rules of evidence and procedure. This film is a must watch for anyone going to law school.

  • A wonder ensemble cast set within a story that is rich, complex, and multi-layered; directed by the legendary Francis Ford Coppola.

  • Excellent bluesy score.

The bad:

  • There's a lot of luck involved in how Rudy overcomes some insurmountable odds but like The Firm, this is a minor nitpick that doesn't detract from the story.


  • Danny Devito practically steals the movie as Rudy's partner, Deck Shifflet, a paralegal who knows his way around the courts, and the underbelly of the insurance industry but has failed the bar multiple times. I would have loved to have seen more of this anti-hero in his own sequel film or spinoff series.


  • **** 1/2 (out of five)

Where you can watch The Rainmaker (1997):

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