Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

`The Client': A Refresher after Other Thrillers

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

`The Client': A Refresher after Other Thrillers

Article excerpt

JUST when it appeared the entire summer would be a parade of mad bombers and evil terrorists bent on blowing away the last remaining traces of Hollywood civility, along comes a warm-weather thriller with a reasonable degree of respect for its characters, its subject, and the intelligence of its audience.

That's not to say "The Client" is a thinking person's movie, or that its straight-out suspense scenes work as well as its more humanly scaled episodes. Just the opposite, in fact, since the moments that work hardest to put you on the edge of your seat are the ones most likely to set your mind wandering.

Generally speaking, though, "The Client" is the most cleverly conceived and skillfully made melodrama to emerge from a major studio in months. All of which comes as quite a surprise to me, since I was dreading the combination of filmmaker Joel Schumacher - whose "Falling Down" and "Dying Young" set new lows in pop-culture pretension - and the repetition of John Grisham's big, boring bestseller. The awfulness of the last movie based on a Grisham novel, "The Pelican Brief," didn't reassure me, either.

The screenplay of "The Client," by Akiva Goldsman and Robert Getchell, closely follows Grisham's plot. It focuses on young Mark Sway, a bright 11-year-old who stumbles on an adventure he never wanted - becoming sole witness to the drunken confession and bloody suicide of a mob lawyer, who knows where the body of a murdered senator is buried.

Fearing the exposure of their deadly secret, the mob would like to rub Mark out, or at least terrorize him into permanent silence. The police should be his friends under these circumstances, but Mark is far from certain they'd protect him from the retribution that would surely come if he cooperated. His only confidante is a lawyer he finds almost by accident, and while she's full of good intentions, she's far less experienced than the hard-boiled cops and unscrupulous crooks relentlessly dogging her client's trail.

What brings "The Client" more alive on the wide screen than on the printed page is a combination of well-chosen ingredients, starting with first-rate acting by two seasoned pros and one delightful newcomer. …

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