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  Directed by
    None Listed
  Starring
  Specs
  • Widescreen 1.78:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  Languages
  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • Spanish: Dolby Digital Surround
  • Italian: Dolby Digital Surround
  Subtitles
    Spanish, Italian, Hebrew, Greek, Portuguese, English - Hearing Impaired, Croatian
  Extras
  • Teaser trailer
  • Theatrical trailer

The Firm

Paramount/Paramount . R4 . COLOR . 148 mins . M15+ . PAL

  Feature
Contract

In 1993, Sydney Pollock’s ‘The Firm’ earned two Academy Award nominations and launched a string of John Grisham film adaptations that continues today. Such has been Grisham’s success that, on both paper and celluloid, Grisham is widely credited with the mainstream embrace of a relatively new genre – the legal thriller.

Mitch McDeere (Tom Cruise), a brilliant and ambitious Harvard graduate, is courted by many of the country's top law firms. But it is a small, reputable firm from Memphis that makes him an offer he just can’t refuse. A world away from his working class upbringing, and showered with money and gifts, he begins his new life as a high flying associate with firm ‘Bandeeny Lambert and Lock’.

"Fact is, nobody has ever left the firm. … Nobody."

At first his new life seems perfect. With the firm supplying a lifestyle beyond his wildest dreams, McDeere and his young wife (Jeanne Tripplehorn) settle down to suburban bliss. However, after two of his colleagues are found dead in suspicious circumstances, McDeere begins to suspect that the firm is not all that it appears to be…

Thematically, ‘The Firm’ is basically a nineties treatise on eighties greed, with the over-ridding message being ‘all that is gold does not glitter’. It is a standard Grisham adaptation, but in my opinion far from the best (I much prefer Francis Ford Copella’s ‘The Rainmaker’). The plot has some great elements to it, and certainly has you on the edge of your seat for the last third, but slow pacing and dull spots in the early parts of director Sydney Pollack's film serve to slow the movie down a little too much. A little editing here and there out of the film's overlong 148 minutes could have helped the pace along, and would have produced a more thrilling ride. As is, the length serves to subtract some of the tension from the movie. The scripting also seems a little loose, with the audience making observations or jumping to conclusions a little faster than the protagonist – a real no-no for a thriller to work effectively.

There are two sides to Tom Cruise the actor. At times he can be wonderful – you need only look to his Academy Award nominated performances (Magnolia, Jerry Maguire, Born on the Fourth of July) for proof. At other times however, he’s average at best, relying on charisma alone to carry his performance. Sadly, his performance as Mitch McDeere falls squarely into this last category. Cruise can be somewhat forgiven perhaps; it is not until the last third that he is given anything really solid to work with.

At least the supporting cast, which includes Ed Harris, Holly Hunter, Wilford Brimley, and not least Gene Hackman, is strong. Not surprisingly, Hackman's portrail of Avery Tolar, McDeere’s womanizing law-bending mentor, is a standout. Ed Harris is bald and menacing as the FBI agent always on McDeere’s back, and Holly Hunter gives a memorable performance (and earned an Academy Award nomination) as the screechy, white-trash secretary that helps Mitch along the way. Willford Brimley is threatening as the Firm's head of security, and David Strathairn is touching as Mitch's jailbird brother; despite being written out of much of the movie.

  Video
Contract

Paramount's anamorphic transfer of 'The Firm' is, in general, sharp and clean with well balanced colour. However there are some problems. It suffers from a couple of badly placed film artefacts that I found a little distracting. Shadow detail is generally good, but there is some grain evident in a couple of the night time scenes – particularly in close-ups of Mitch and his wife. A little aliasing can also be seen - the often nasty venetian blinds are in abundance – but also off the edge of Ed Harris’ bald head! Finally, pixelation appears in a very small number of scenes with dark, out of focus backgrounds (although I did not notice these artefacts first time through). All in all I would have to say this is an average transfer with respect to the high standard now being produced by most distributors.

  Audio
Contract

There is one Dolby Digital 5.1 encoded audio track on this disc (English) and two Dolby Digital 2.0 encoded audio tracks (Spanish and Italian). I listened only to the English soundtrack.

This is not a terribly intense film in terms of audio, and is dominated by a distinctive and original score by composer Dave Grusin. Grusin is a noted jazz musician, a multiple Grammy Award winner and an Academy Award winner for his score of ‘The Milagro Beanfield War’. Not surprisingly, he earned an Academy Award nomination for his work on ‘The Firm’. His score helps set a common tone for the film, and its jazzy, bluesy feel fits with both the setting (Mississippi) and the film’s corporate-dominated production design.

At all times the dialogue is clear and nicely integrated. In all other ways the audio is fine, but unremarkable. This is a character driven film, and sound effects are at a premium! The surround usage is restrained but nonetheless effective, providing some ambience when necessary. The subwoofer has nothing really to do.

  Extras
Contract

This is a bare bones release from Paramount, and comes with minimal extras. This is a real shame as I suspect a commentary from Sydney Pollack would have provided some real food for thought.

  • Menu: the menu is simple and functional, and is 16x9 enhanced.

  • Trailer & Teaser Trailer: pretty standard fair, and not worth a second look.

We miss out on nothing included in the R1 release.

  Overall  
Contract

There is no denying that ‘The Firm’ has some good moments, but they just don't add up to a great movie overall. Personally, I found it a overly long and lacking in that consistently building tension that is essential for a good thriller. The supporting cast provides some great performances, and the last third is gripping enough to still make this a worthwhile prospect but, for me at least, 'The Firm' is definitely rental only. As far as the disc is concerned, it provides a reasonable transfer, but nothing else - The Firm is yet another bare-bones release.


  • LINK: http://www.dvd.net.au/review.cgi?review_id=501
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      And I quote...
    "The Firm has some good moments, but they just don't add up to a great movie…"
    - Gavin Turner
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Toshiba SD-2108
    • TV:
          Panasonic TC-68P90A TAU (80cm)
    • Receiver:
          Yamaha RX-V795
    • Amplifier:
          Yamaha RX-V795
    • Speakers:
          B&W 602
    • Centre Speaker:
          B&W CC6 S2
    • Surrounds:
          JM Lab Cobalt SR20
    • Subwoofer:
          B&W ASW-500
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard Optical
    • Video Cables:
          Standard Component RCA
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