Picks and Pans Review: The Firm

updated 07/12/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/12/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Tom Cruise, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Gene Hackman, Ed Harris

Those expecting a fast-paced thriller will be disappointed. Those expecting a faithful adaptation of John Grisham's crackling best-seller will be disappointed. Only those with infinite patience, forgiving hearts and a spare 2½ hours will leave the theater feeling satisfied.

The film starts with an interesting idea: When, like Cruise, you're near the top of your class at Harvard Law School, even' hotshot firm in the country wants you. They offer generous salaries, former governors as colleagues and corporate boxes at basketball games. Hal Holbrook, the patriarchal head of a small firm in Memphis, offers more: a BIG salary (20 percent higher than your next-best offer), a Mercedes, a house and repayment of your school loans. Cruise, who grew up on the wrong side of the tracks—his mother lives in a trailer, his brother (the fine David Strathairn) is in prison on a felony conviction—is dazzled, his wife (Tripplehorn) less so. She thinks maybe it's all just too good to be true.

It's all true and it isn't good: The firm's chief activity is doing the business and bidding of the Mob; the firm's chief way of dealing with insubordination is murder. The FBI wants to recruit Cruise to get the goods on his colleagues. The partners want to keep Cruise in line—they have bugged his house and car, set him up with a prostitute (Karina Lombard; see story, page 47) and blackmailed him. The Firm, after a firecracker opening, goes downhill quickly, partly because of too many attenuated car and foot chases, partly due to the difficulty in imagining Cruise as an attorney. The supporting cast—Harris as a gonzo G-man, Holly Hunter as a tart-tongued secretary and Hackman as a dissipated lawyer—is outstanding. But their prodigiousness serves only to underscore the too-boyish Cruise's limitations—notably, his utter inability to convey more than one emotion at a time. (R)

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