Law of Diminishing Returns

The actors' moments of truth are what pierce the mental fog. Place gives a unsettling, weary buzz to the role of a disappointed wife and mother; no performer alive does more with a knitted brow. Whitworth imbues the ailing Donny Ray with just the right sad purity. Madsen, as a badly used woman, conjures a worn sensuality that's both sordid and touching.

And the movie's highly caffeinated blend of sinners occasionally jolts you wide awake. Jon Voight, in the part of Great Benefit's rich, devious lawyer, wins laughs with his voluptuous Southern accent, especially when he says he hopes the proceedings won't turn "p-u-u-u-gilistic." Rourke's suggestive burned-out sheen makes you wish his Brusier had more to do. And DeVito's Deck -- avidly signing up clients as they lay in traction -- looks and acts like a spark plug. The movie peaks when he says a lawyer should "fight for his client, refrain from stealing money, try not to lie -- you know, the basics." Not everything DeVito does is choice; he punctuates his scenes with clumsy slapstick. But it's his bustling, simpatico pragmatist -- not Damon's wan, moralistic Rudy -- that keeps the picture moving. During the recent publicity for the re-release of The Godfather, Coppola talked about identifying with actor Al Pacino partly because he was short and Italian. In The Rainmaker Coppola lets his stubby paisano run away with the show.

John Grisham's The Rainmaker.
Directed and written by Francis Ford Coppola, from John Grisham's novel. Starring Matt Damon, Claire Danes, Jon Voight, Mary Kay Place, Mickey Rourke, and Danny DeVito.

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