The Firm promotional movie poster
|Directed by||Sydney Pollack|
|Produced by||John Davis
|Music by||Dave Grusin|
|Editing by||William Steinkamp
|Distributed by||Paramount Pictures|
|Release date(s)||June 30, 1993|
|Running time||154 min.|
|Budget||$42,000,000 US (est.)|
The Firm is a legal thriller film released in 1993, directed by Sydney Pollack, and starring Tom Cruise, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Gene Hackman, Ed Harris, Holly Hunter, Gary Busey, and David Strathairn. The film is based on the 1991 novel The Firm by author John Grisham. Holly Hunter was nominated for the 1994 Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, but lost to her co-star in The Piano, Anna Paquin.
A young attorney, Mitch McDeere, is newly employed by a seductive Memphis law firm that seems to have many secrets. When he discovers they are representing organized crime, and what price has been paid by others who have discovered this, he risks his life to escape.
Gene Hackman's name did not appear on the release poster; due to Tom Cruise's deal with Paramount only his name could appear above the title. Hackman also wanted his name to appear above the credits but when this was refused he asked for his name to be removed. His name does appear in the end credits.
The film accords with the book in most respects, but the ending is different. Mitch doesn't end up in the Caribbean, as in the book; he and his wife, Abby, simply get into their vehicle and drive away from Memphis. (To Boston, as the ending narration, "Do you think [the car] will make it?...to Boston...")
A more fundamental difference from the book is the motives and manner in which Mitch solves his predicament. In the book, Mitch acknowledges to himself that he is betraying the attorney-client privilege by copying certain information and giving it to the FBI (although in actuality, in most US states this privilege does not apply if a lawyer knows that his client is committing a crime). Accepting that he will not be allowed to practice law anywhere again, he swindles $10 million from the mob law firm, along with receiving $1 million of a promised $2 million from the FBI for his cooperation. He then disappears with Abby to the Caribbean.
In the film, apparently in order to preserve the personal integrity of the protagonist, Mitch steals no money from the firm. Instead, he exposes a systematic overbilling scheme by the firm, thus driving a wedge between the mob and its law firm. He receives a smaller amount of money from the FBI, which he gives to his brother Ray, allowing him to disappear. This alters the character of the Mitch McDeere created by Grisham. Rather than capitalizing on his circumstances for personal gain, as in the book, the movie's McDeere ends up battered and bruised, but with his integrity and professional ethics intact. Mitch also makes the FBI have to work to bring down the firm by having to argue that each instance of excessive overbilling is a federal offence (by virtue of the excessive bills going via the US Postal Service), and then given the volume and frequency, it invokes the racketeering legislation, thereby enabling the FBI to seize premises and equipment, as well as freezing bank accounts, in effect putting the firm out of business. From here the mafia would then need to find another law firm willing to take them on as clients, and if they couldn't, charges for non-lodgment of tax returns could be brought. As Mitch says "you guys didn't have that much on Al Capone". In the book, detailed records and a recorded testimony are provided by Mitch, which, either by itself or in addition to the evidence obtained by the FBI, enables indictments to be brought against the firm's lawyers and the mafia.
The Last Name of the man killed in the Grand Cayman is Hodges, instead of Hodge like in the novel.
McDeere's confession to Abby about his sexual infidelity was also unique to the film. In the novel, McDeere never tells Abby about his infidelity. In the book, Abby not knowing about Mitch's infidelity is a major "suspense" piece. Mitch comes home one evening and finds an envelope addressed to Abby, that has "Photos - Do Not Bend" written on it. Mitch thinks it's the pictures he was shown of his infidelity overseas. Abby is in the bedroom when he sees the open package. He enters the bedroom and learns that Abby opened the package, but it was empty—- there were no photos inside the envelope. Mitch realizes the head of security at the firm is toying with him, and this incident in the book causes Mitch to take action against the firm.
Also, in the book it's not Abby who seduces Avery in the Caribbean, but Eddie's old secretary, Tammy. This also changes the character development because in the movie Abby is portrayed as risking herself for Mitch. In the book Abby is simply an accomplice to Tammy and it's Tammy who seduces and drugs Avery.
Critical reaction to The Firm has been mostly positive, with the film earning a 76% rating at Rotten Tomatoes. Roger Ebert gave The Firm three stars out of four, remarking: "The movie is virtually an anthology of good small character performances. ... The large gallery of characters makes The Firm into a convincing canvas ... [but] with a screenplay that developed the story more clearly, this might have been a superior movie, instead of just a good one with some fine performances." The film earned some negative reviews, however, notably from James Berardinelli, who said that "[v]ery little of what made the written version so enjoyable has been successfully translated to the screen, and what we're left with instead is an overly-long [and] pedantic thriller." Grisham enjoyed the film, remarking: "I thought [Tom Cruise] did a good job. He played the innocent young associate very well."
The film was a huge success, making over $158 million domestically and $111 internationally ($270 million worldwide). Additionally, it was the largest grossing R-rated movie of 1993 and of any film based on a Grisham novel.