The Rainmaker (1997 film)

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The Rainmaker
John grishams the rainmaker.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byFrancis Ford Coppola
Produced by
Screenplay byFrancis Ford Coppola
Based onThe Rainmaker
by John Grisham
Music byElmer Bernstein
CinematographyJohn Toll
Edited by
Distributed byParamount Pictures
Release date
  • November 21, 1997 (1997-11-21)
Running time
135 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Budget$40 million
Box office$45.9 million[2]

The Rainmaker is a 1997 American legal drama film written and directed by Francis Ford Coppola based on John Grisham's 1995 novel of the same name. It stars Matt Damon, Danny DeVito, Danny Glover, Claire Danes, Jon Voight, Roy Scheider, Mickey Rourke, Virginia Madsen, Mary Kay Place and Teresa Wright in her final film role.


Unlike most of his fellow graduates of the University of Memphis Law School, Rudy Baylor has no high-paying job lined up and is forced to apply for part-time positions while serving drinks at a Memphis bar. Desperate for a job, he is introduced to J. Lyman "Bruiser" Stone, a ruthless but successful ambulance chaser, who makes him an associate. To earn his fee, Rudy is required to hunt for potential clients at a local hospital. He meets Deck Shifflet, a less-than-ethical former insurance assessor-turned-paralegal who has failed the bar exam six times. However, Deck is resourceful in gathering information and is an expert on insurance lawsuits.

Rudy has a case of insurance bad faith which could be worth several million dollars in damages. When Stone is raided by the FBI, Rudy and Deck set up a practice themselves. They file suit on behalf of a middle-aged couple, Dot and Buddy Black, whose 22-year-old son, Donny Ray, is dying of leukemia, but could have been saved with a bone marrow transplant, denied by their insurance carrier Great Benefit.

Rudy passes the Tennessee bar exam but, having never argued a case before a judge and jury, now finds himself up against a group of experienced lawyers from a large firm, headed by attorney Leo F. Drummond, who uses unscrupulous tactics to win his cases. The original judge, Harvey Hale, is set to dismiss because he sees it as a so-called "lottery" case that slows down the judicial process. However, a more sympathetic judge, Tyrone Kipler, takes over when Hale suffers a fatal heart attack. Kipler, a former civil rights attorney, immediately denies Great Benefit's petition for dismissal.

While seeking new clients, Rudy meets Kelly Riker, a battered wife whose husband Cliff has beaten her numerous times, repeatedly putting her in the hospital. Rudy persuades Kelly to file for divorce, which leads to a confrontation with Cliff that results in Rudy beating him nearly to death. To keep Rudy from being implicated, Kelly kills Cliff, then tells the police it was self-defense. The district attorney declines to prosecute.

Donny Ray dies, but not before giving a video deposition at his home. The case goes to trial, where Drummond gets the vital testimony of Rudy's key witness, Jackie Lemanczyk, stricken from the record because it is based on a stolen manual used as evidence. Nevertheless, thanks to Rudy's determination and some clandestine reference help from a now Caribbean-based fugitive Bruiser with whom Deck is connected by intermediaries, her testimony - and Great Benefit Employee Manual - are finally admitted into evidence, to defence counsel Drummond's dismay. Rudy skillfully cross-examines Great Benefit's president, Wilfred Keeley, providing evidence that leads the jury to find for Donny Ray's family for not only actual damages but also enormous punitive damages that Great Benefit cannot pay. It is a great triumph for Rudy and Deck, with Keeley being arrested by the FBI and investigation proceedings into Great Benefit launched in multiple jurisdictions. However, the insurance company declares bankruptcy, allowing it to avoid paying punitive damages. There is no payout for the grieving parents and no fee for Rudy.

Deciding that this success will create unrealistic expectations for future clients, Rudy decides to abandon his new practice and teach law. He and Kelly leave town together, heading out for an uncertain, but bright, future together.



Box office[edit]

On its opening weekend, the film ranked third behind Anastasia and Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, earning $10,626,507.[3] The film grossed $45,916,769 in the domestic box office,[2] exceeding its estimated production budget of $40 million, but still was considered a disappointment for a film adaptation of a Grisham novel, particularly in comparison to The Firm, which was made for roughly the same amount but grossed more than six times its budget.

Critical reception[edit]

The film received generally positive reviews from critics, with the film earning an 82% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 49 reviews, with an average rating of 6.86 out of 10. The website's critical consensus states: "Invigorated by its talented cast and Francis Ford Coppola's strong direction, The Rainmaker is a satisfying legal drama — and arguably the best of Hollywood's many John Grisham adaptations."[4] On Metacritic, the film has a 72 out of 100 rating based on 19 critics, indicating "generally positive reviews".[5]

Roger Ebert gave The Rainmaker three stars out of four, remarking: "I have enjoyed several of the movies based on Grisham novels ... but I've usually seen the storyteller's craft rather than the novelist's art being reflected. ... By keeping all of the little people in focus, Coppola shows the variety of a young lawyer's life, where every client is necessary and most of them need a lot more than a lawyer."[6] James Berardinelli also gave the film three stars out of four, saying that "the intelligence and subtlety of The Rainmaker took me by surprise" and that the film "stands above any other filmed Grisham adaptation".[7]


Blockbuster Entertainment Awards
  • Favorite Actor — Drama (Matt Damon)
  • Favorite Supporting Actor — Drama (Danny DeVito)
  • Favorite Supporting Actress — Drama (Claire Danes)
Golden Globe Awards
  • Best Supporting Actor (Jon Voight)
NAACP Image Awards
  • Best Supporting Actor — Motion Picture (Danny Glover)
Satellite Awards
  • Best Supporting Actor — Motion Picture Drama (Danny DeVito)
USC Scripter Award
  • USC Scripter Award (John Grisham and Francis Ford Coppola)

Other honors

The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:


  1. ^ "JOHN GRISHAM'S THE RAINMAKER (15)". British Board of Film Classification. January 7, 1998. Retrieved October 17, 2015.
  2. ^ a b "The Rainmaker (1997)". Box Office Mojo. IMDb. Retrieved October 17, 2015.
  3. ^ "Weekend Box Office Results for November 21-23, 1997". Box Office Mojo. IMDb. November 24, 1997. Retrieved October 17, 2015.
  4. ^ "The Rainmaker". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved April 13, 2018.
  5. ^ "The Rainmaker Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved October 17, 2015.
  6. ^ Ebert, Roger (November 21, 1997). "The Rainmaker". Ebert Digital LLC. Retrieved April 13, 2018.
  7. ^ Berardinelli, James (1997). "The Rainmaker". ReelViews. Retrieved April 13, 2018.
  8. ^ "AFI's 100 Years... 100 Movies: Official Ballot" (PDF). American Film Institute. Archived from the original on July 16, 2011. Retrieved August 19, 2016.CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)

External links[edit]