title: THE FIRM
year: 1993
cast: Tom Cruise, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Gene Hackman, Wilford Brimley, Hal Holbrook, Gary Busey, David Strathaim, Holly Hunter, Jerry Hardin, Steven Hill, Ed Harris, Paul Calderan, Tobin Bell, Terry Kinney, Paul Sorvino
rating: ***

Tom Cruise is the best fighter pilot. Tom Cruise is the best bartender. So why not be the best lawyer (actually, one person got a higher score on the bar exam, but he probably cheated). This film, directed by Sydney Pollock and based on yet another dolphin-lawyer-swimming-in-shark-filled-water book by John Grisham, is stylistic, classy, and perfectly vapid. Cruise, straight out of Harvard (yet he had to work hard to make it through, and, like all of Cruise's characters, has a troubled past he must make up for), gets a lucritive job at a firm that not only caters to the mob, but is part of their own crime syndicate. After he and wife Jeanne Tripplehorn (in an effective performance aimed at opening night audiences) are given a new house, a new car, and a great new paycheck, Cruise, after realizing the firm's corruptness, slowly figures out a loophole to beat them at their own game. What he does to strike back is confusing and would probably take a lawyer to understand (or someone who read the book), but it doesn't matter. Fun is fun, and this movie, if taken too seriously, could be thoroughly despised. Especially if you ask certain questions: Why would the firm's lead hitman be over six feet tall with shockingly blonde hair and albino eyes (Tobin Bell) i.e. easy to remember? Or why is Cruise's character able to do acrobatic sommersaults (in perhaps one of the silliest moments in film history)? So just give in to this handsomely filmed lightweight thriller with a straight-through piano score and some great actors dumbing down for the sake of being in a Tom Cruise blockbuster. Gene Hackman, as Cruise's personal mentor... a charming, womanizing lawyer who loves the vacationing aspect of his job... David Strathaim, as Cruise's glibly laidback jailbird brother... Terry Kinney, as a seemingly innocent lawyer who initially puts Cruise at ease... And Gary Busey as a fast talking private eye help elevate things: at least for as long as they're on screen. But the show belongs to Cruise, who, as usual, delivers this pizza with tons of cheese and, unless you're expecting steak or caviar, it'll fill you up as needed.

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