This first film adaptation of a John Grisham novel is a crackerjack popcorn movie that satisfies even though it radically changes the last half of the book. The novel's dynamic setup is intact: Mitch McDeere, a hot law graduate (a well-suited Tom Cruise), finds a dream job in a luxurious Memphis law firm. His superiors (Gene Hackman, Hal Holbrook) provide Mitch and his young wife, Abby (Jeanne Tripplehorn), with a house and plenty of money in exchange for lots of work, and maybe something more. Soon FBI agents (including a bald Ed Harris) encircle Mitch, telling him his firm has a sinister secret, forcing Mitch into a heck of a pickle. How Mitch deals with his situation is where the book and movie differ, yet by the time Mitch is running from bad guys with suitcase in hand, the movie delivers Grisham's goods. For Sydney Pollack's film, Mitch is more confrontational and heroic. Plot aside, the care Pollack put into this fair-weather thriller is unimpeachable, as is his cast. There's hardly a better all-star cast in any '90s thriller, from Hackman and Harris in key roles to actors in smaller parts, sometimes with only a scene or two. Standouts include David Strathairn as Mitch's wayward brother, Wilford Brimley as the head of security, film producer Jerry Weintraub as an angry client, Gary Busey as a private investigator, and Holly Hunter in a delicious, Oscar-nominated supporting role as Busey's most loyal of secretaries. The cast seems to have had as much fun making the film as we do watching it. It's slick Hollywood product, but first-rate all the way. --Doug Thomas
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