John Grisham's The Rainmaker Francis Ford Coppola

The Rainmaker boasts a peculiar restraint in comparison to the previous works of novelist John Grisham. It’s the same David and Goliath story, with a small-time lawyer who is well over his head against a multifaceted conspiracy with deep pockets. Yet with The Rainmaker Grisham refrains from overselling his baddies as murderous hoodlums in suits, keeps most of the fireworks within legal procedurals and is less reliant on bursts of violence to hype the thrill. On top of that, the film is far more introspective of the legal game, sustaining a scathing commentary on lawyers, their cuts and fleeting morals. The Rainmaker’s conspirator is a big Insurance Corporation that takes a likely course of action in settling down a small town claimant whose wrongful death looms over the horizon. Matt Damon plays Rudy Baylor, an idealistic and broke (the two are always hand-in-hand) law school student who picks up his first civil suit before even passing the bar. Rudy gets assistance from an ambulance chaser (Danny DeVito) who has never passed the bar but knows all the ropes. Together the pair lock horns with a set of legal heavies led by Jon Voight’s charmingly sulphuric Leo F. Drummond. Showcasing a prime ensemble cast that also includes Mickey Rourke, Danny Glover and Claire Danes, this nuanced character drama owes a debt of gratitude to the admirably restrained Francis Ford Coppola, who minimises his flourishes to slyly placing a shark tank here and a ventriloquist there, keeping his efforts focused on the acting. In the documentary "Francis Ford Coppola directs John Grisham’s The Rainmaker,” we see how the filmmaker privileged his actors above even his own art, and worked with them in an unconventional and practical manner to enhance their performances (like when Coppola would have Damon walk on stones to show discomfort). Unfortunately, the doc steals much of the thunder from Coppola’s audio commentary, as he’s left repeating information that’s already been covered, adding an extra titbit here and there. Danny DeVito, whose own commentary has been awkwardly collapsed on top of Coppola’s to fill silent gaps, does nothing to help, as he simply describes what he sees on screen. Obviously, the director wasn’t present to guide him. (Paramount)