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Socialist Review Index (1993–1996) | Socialist Review 179 Contents

Socialist Review, October 1994

Pete Morgan


Child’s Play


From Socialist Review, No. 179, October 1994.
Copyright © Socialist Review.
Copied with thanks from the Socialist Review Archive.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


The Client
Dir: Joel Schumacher

There is clearly a problem with transferring John Grisham’s best selling novels on to the screen. Both The Firm and, in particular, The Pelican Brief fail to capture the suspense you feel when reading his books as you eagerly read chapter to chapter, pulled along by the speed of the story. At least with The Firm there were some subtle twists to the story and the film did deviate in a number of places from the book to help the suspense.

The latest film, The Client, however, follows the book exactly and this is one of the reasons for its shortcomings. The plot is weak and the story is, on the whole, predictable. It starts well enough when 11-year-old Mark Sway and his brother witness the suicide of Mafia lawyer Jerome Clifford. But before he kills himself he tells Mark the location of the body of Senator Boyd Boyette. And so Mark has information that the FBI wants – for without the senator’s body they are unable to prove the crime. The Mafia need Mark to keep quiet as Jerome’s client, Barry ‘The Blade’ Muldano, has been indicted for Boyette’s murder. That’s the story, and the film follows the attempts by the FBI, headed by the conceited agent Roy Foltrigg (Tommy Lee Jones), to force the information from Mark, and the threats of the Mafia to keep him quiet.

To defend himself Mark turns to lawyer Reggie Love – played by Susan Sarandon of Thelma and Louise fame – to help free him from his dangerous dilemma. If he reveals the location of the body he will be killed by the Mafia – if he doesn’t he is guilty of hindering the investigation of the FBI. The consequences of that, explains one police officer, ‘is that they have electric chairs especially made for small children!’

The incompetence of the police and the FBI is one of the more amusing features of the film, in particular the court scene where the FBI use a court order to try and force the information from Mark, but instead face the wrath of the local judge who’s not too keen on these big city boys telling him how to run his court.

Mark’s solution to the threat of police and Mafia is to locate the senator’s body to confirm what the lawyer told him. He escapes from custody and, with the help of Reggie, finds that he is indeed the one that the FBI needs – a bargaining chip for his final escape.

Unfortunately The Client is one of those films where halfway through you are more or less certain how it will end. There are no twists, no hidden or unexpected turns that put the fate of Mark or his family in doubt and so keep the audience in suspense – not a very good recommendation for a film that’s meant to be a thriller.

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