The Firm (1993 film)

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The Firm
Firm ver2.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Sydney Pollack
Produced by John Davis
Sydney Pollack
Scott Rudin
Screenplay by David Rabe
Robert Towne
David Rayfiel
Based on The Firm 
by John Grisham
Starring Tom Cruise
Jeanne Tripplehorn
Gene Hackman
Ed Harris
Holly Hunter
Hal Holbrook
David Strathairn
Music by Dave Grusin
Cinematography John Seale
Edited by William Steinkamp
Fredric Steinkamp
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release dates
  • June 30, 1993 (1993-06-30)
Running time 154 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $42 million
Box office $270,248,367

The Firm is a 1993 American legal thriller film directed by Sydney Pollack and starring Tom Cruise, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Gene Hackman, Ed Harris, Holly Hunter, Hal Holbrook, and David Strathairn. The film is based on the 1991 novel The Firm by author John Grisham.

Plot[edit]

Mitch McDeere (Tom Cruise) is a young man with a promising future in law. About to graduate from Harvard Law School, he is approached by Bendini, Lambert & Locke (The Firm), and made an offer he cannot refuse. He and his wife, Abigail "Abby" (Jeanne Tripplehorn), move to Memphis, where The Firm is located. Avery Tolar (Gene Hackman) becomes his mentor at The Firm.

Seduced by the money and gifts showered on him, including a house and car, he is at first totally oblivious to the more sinister side of his company, although Abby has her suspicions. Then, two associates are murdered. The FBI contacts him, asking him for information and informing him that the Firm is connected to the mob, and that every associate who has ever tried to leave the firm ends up murdered. His life as he knows it is forever changed. He has a choice: work with the FBI and risk being discovered by the Firm and losing his law license because he believes that attorney–client confidentiality prevents him from revealing the firm's illegal activities to investigators, or stay with the Firm and both violate his personal code of ethics and go to jail when the FBI cracks the Firm. Either way, he will lose his life as he knows it.

Mitch devises a plan that allows him to cooperate with the FBI by finding proof that all partners from the Firm were guilty of overbilling (and by sending these bills via the postal service, guilty of mail fraud), while at the same time reaching an agreement with the mob Morolto brothers. In addition, he manages to do so without breaking any laws, thereby being able to keep his status as a lawyer.

At the end of the film, the McDeeres leave their house in Memphis for Boston, driving the same car in which they arrived.

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

Gene Hackman's name did not appear on the release poster; due to Tom Cruise's deal with Paramount only his name could appear above the title. Hackman also wanted his name to appear above the credits, but when this was refused he asked for his name to be removed.[citation needed] His name does appear in the end credits.

The soundtrack is almost exclusively solo piano by Dave Grusin.

Differences from the novel[edit]

The film accords with the book in most respects, but the ending is significantly different. Mitch does not end up in the Caribbean, as in the book; he and Abby simply get into their car and drive away from Memphis (to Boston, as the ending narration, "Do you think [the car] will make it?...to Boston...")

A more fundamental difference from the book is the motives and manner in which Mitch solves his predicament. In the book, Mitch acknowledges to himself that he is betraying the attorney–client confidentiality by copying certain information and giving it to the FBI. In actuality, in most US states this privilege only applies to crimes that have already been committed. The privilege does not apply if a lawyer knows that his client either is committing or will commit a crime. Accepting that he will not be allowed to practice law anywhere again, he swindles $10 million from the mob law firm, along with receiving $1 million of a promised $2 million from the FBI for his cooperation. After an extended manhunt involving the police, the firm's lawyers, and hired thugs courtesy of the Morolto family, Mitch escapes with Abby (and his brother Ray) to the Caribbean.

In the film, apparently in order to preserve the protagonist's personal integrity, Mitch steals no money from the Firm. Instead, he exposes a systematic overbilling scheme by the firm, thus driving a wedge between the mob (which in essence becomes complicit with Mitch) and its law firm (in the book, there is only one sentence that refers to overbilling). He receives a smaller amount of money from the FBI, which he gives to Ray, allowing him to disappear. This alters the character of the Mitch McDeere created by Grisham. Rather than capitalizing on his circumstances for personal gain, as in the book, the movie's McDeere ends up battered and bruised, but with his integrity and professional ethics intact. Mitch also makes the FBI have to work in order to bring down the firm by having to argue that each instance of excessive overbilling is a federal offense (by virtue of the excessive bills going via the US Postal Service); given the volume and frequency, it invokes the racketeering legislation, thereby enabling the FBI to seize premises and equipment, as well as freezing bank accounts—in effect putting the firm out of business. From here the mafia would then need to find another law firm willing to take them on as clients, and if they couldn't, charges for non-lodgment of tax returns could be brought. In the book, detailed records and a recorded testimony are provided by Mitch, which, either by itself or in addition to the evidence obtained by the FBI, enables indictments to be brought against the firm's lawyers and the mafia.

Instead of a BMW, Mitch gets a Mercedes-Benz for joining the firm.

Avery Tolar was originally Avery Tolleson; the latest version of the novel uses the film's surname. Tolar is portrayed as a sort of reluctant villain in the film, while in the novel he has no such moral conflicts.

The surname of the man killed on Grand Cayman is Hodges, instead of Hodge like in the novel.

Mitch's confession to Abby about his sexual infidelity was also unique to the film. In the novel, McDeere never tells Abby about his infidelity. In the book, Abby not knowing about Mitch's infidelity is a major "suspense" piece. Mitch comes home one evening and finds an envelope addressed to Abby, that has "Photos - Do Not Bend" written on it. The photos were surreptitiously given to the head of security by Art Germain. Mitch thinks it is the pictures he was shown of his infidelity overseas. Abby is in the bedroom when he sees the open package. He enters the bedroom and learns that Abby opened the package, but it was empty. Mitch realizes the head of security at the firm is toying with him, and this incident in the book causes Mitch to take action against the Firm.

Also, in the book it is not Abby who seduces Avery in the Caribbean, but Eddie's old secretary, Tammy. This also changes the character development because in the movie Abby is portrayed as risking herself for Mitch. In the book, Abby is simply an accomplice to Tammy and it is Tammy who seduces and drugs Avery.

Filming locations[edit]

Memphis, Tennessee
  • Owen Brennan's - Lunch scene in cocktail/bar area. Owen Brennan's commemorated the filming by placing plaques on the two cocktail chairs where Tom Cruise and Gene Hackman sat.
  • Peabody Hotel - BBQ roof scene overlooking Mississippi River Bridge and downtown Memphis.
  • Beale Street - Scene where Mitch and Abby see young tumblers as street performers
  • Lausanne Collegiate School - Playground scene and others.
  • Front Street Deli - Meeting at diner.
  • Mud Island
  • Blues City Cafe - FBI first meeting with Mitch.
  • Scates Hall, University of Memphis - legal deliberations
Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands
Marion, Arkansas
  • The Marion Hotel - Apartment room on top floor for a scene.

Release[edit]

Critical reception[edit]

Critical reaction to The Firm has been mostly positive, with the film earning a 75% rating at Rotten Tomatoes.[1]

Roger Ebert gave The Firm three stars out of four, remarking: "The movie is virtually an anthology of good small character performances. [...] The large gallery of characters makes The Firm into a convincing canvas [... but] with a screenplay that developed the story more clearly, this might have been a superior movie, instead of just a good one with some fine performances."[2]

The film earned some negative reviews as well, notably from James Berardinelli, who said that "[v]ery little of what made the written version so enjoyable has been successfully translated to the screen, and what we're left with instead is an overly-long [and] pedantic thriller."[3] Grisham enjoyed the film, remarking: "I thought [Tom Cruise] did a good job. He played the innocent young associate very well."[4]

Box office[edit]

The film was released while Grisham was at the height of his popularity. That week, Grisham and Michael Crichton evenly divided the top six paperback spots on The New York Times Best Seller list.[5] The film was a huge success, making over $158 million domestically and $111 million internationally ($270 million worldwide).[6][7] Additionally, it was the largest grossing R-rated movie of 1993 and of any film based on a Grisham novel.[8]

Awards[edit]

The film earned two Academy Award nominations including Best Supporting Actress for Holly Hunter (losing to Anna Paquin for The Piano) and Best Original Score for Dave Grusin (losing to John Williams for Schindler's List).

TV sequel[edit]

In April 2011 Entertainment One announced that a sequel to The Firm was being produced with Sony Pictures Television and Paramount Pictures. The series picked up the story of Mitch and his family ten years after the events of the novel and film. The first season was 22 episodes long and began production in Canada in July 2011. In May 2011, NBC confirmed that they had acquired the U.S. broadcast rights to the show and that they planned to début it in January 2012.[9] The show was cancelled after its first season.

References[edit]

  1. ^ The Firm Movie Reviews at Rotten Tomatoes
  2. ^ The Firm review by Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times, June 30, 1993
  3. ^ The Firm review by James Berardinelli, ReelViews.net, 1993
  4. ^ "Grisham v. Grisham: John Grisham issues judgment on ALL his novels" Tina Jordan, Entertainment Weekly, February 13, 2004
  5. ^ Brown, Joe (1993-07-02). "'The Firm' (R)". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2012-01-08. 
  6. ^ Fox, David J. (July 6, 1993). "Movies: 'The Firm,' with $31.5 million for the weekend, leads the way. Total movie receipts for the four-day holiday are an estimated $120 million.". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-10-26. 
  7. ^ Fox, David J. (July 20, 1993). "Weekend Box Office : So Far, This Is Summer to Beat". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2011-01-10. 
  8. ^ The Firm at Box Office Mojo
  9. ^ NBC Unveils Fall Primetime Schedule for 2011-12 Season NBC press release at TheFutonCritic, May 15, 2011

External links[edit]