I’ve never read John Grisham’s The Firm. I didn’t see the 1993 Tom Cruise movie that followed.
I seriously doubt that every person who watched this show on Sunday either saw the movie or read the book (or both).
Plus any decent TV show that’s based on a pre-existing work shouldn’t require the viewer to know and understand that work beforehand. If it’s good, it should be able to explain the information we’re supposed to have in a way that’s not bland or boring to those who already know said information.
I did read A Time to Kill a couple of years ago. So that should be enough at this point. Let’s continue.
Now, at this point I could just sum up The Firm in about two words-
Because that’s basically what it is. None of the actors really shine. The plot has a few interesting twists and turns but has just as many poorly handled, irritating ones. The cinematography is par for the course, although there are a few (relatively) high points here for a network TV drama- some handheld camera work in the beginning that adds a little excitement (before going on for too long and making me a little dizzy) and a blue color filter for flashbacks that’s a neat idea.
But other than that this really didn’t do much for me. So, to liven up this review, I thought I’d transition over to a ‘list’ format.
Heeeeeere it comes….
(cue awesome, transforming robot sound effects)
For my first point (my transformation now complete), the music choices in The Firm are a serious, serious problem. The music here has basically two tricks- fast-paced synth-type stuff for suspense, and soft piano music for emotional moments. The synth stuff is fine. I have no problems with the synthesizers. But when a Lifetime-inspired piano melody appears out of nowhere (why does it always have to be so abrupt?) whenever a mourning parent starts to emote, or a child flees a room in tears, or at the exact moment our hero Mitch McDeere’s wife says: “I’m pregnant,” whatever amount of investment I have in the story flies out the window. It’s far too cheesy to ever do anything but be embarrassing. I’ll admit there’s a decent sound bridge (note: a term in film for when sound or music from the next scene appears at the very end of the current scene, thus creating a ‘bridge’ to the next story beat through ‘sound’) where we hear a little bit of light jazz, and then BAM- cocktail party. I thought that was done pretty well. That’s about it though. Everything else- not great.
If there’s one thing besides bad music that takes me out of a story, it’s when the people in that story consistently say and do things that make no sense whatsoever.
Example: Mitch (our hero) has a brother named Ray. Ray is a private investigator. While investigating the schoolyard murder that drives this episode’s plot, Ray chats up the school’s security guard. The two have a shared prison history, they bond over their past mistakes and the changes they’ve made since then, and the security guard ends up giving Ray some helpful information. Later, when asked how he got this information, Ray replies-
“Let’s just say the school’s security guard and I bonded.”
Think about that. Adding “let’s just say” to any statement, ever, implies what you’re actually saying is a sly euphemism for the real, dirty truth. But “the security guard and I bonded” is exactly what just happened. He bonded. With the security guard. Why is he trying to sneakily imply that he did… the thing… that he just said he did. I don’t understand this at all.
Also, in terms of basic plot elements, once Lawyer McDeere and his merry band of legal staff finish up the actual court case of one middle schooler slaying another (just about halfway through this two-hour pilot), the story continues down a new avenue- Mitch and the gang find out that the father of the murdered boy is planning to hire someone to kill the kid who murdered his own. Cut to a fancy wiretapping ploy –
(note: I actually enjoyed the scenes where our heroes try to record something incriminating coming from the dad’s mouth-the actual, scrappy public defender/private eye feels low-rent and underdog-y enough to be like a watered down version of Terriers, which would actually pique my interest. The mafia-hunting-down-McDeere-for-what-happened-in-the-original-book/movie plot is stale and cliche-ridden and pretty much useless)
-and they catch the dad in the act of ordering a fourteen year old boy’s murder. And at this point The Firm, which I had actually started to enjoy just a teensy little bit, takes another misguided turn down Crazy Idiot road. The protagonists aren’t sure what to do with this new, murderous evidence, and the idea here is that because the father is grieving and the intended victim murdered his son, this is kind of a grey area, but (at least in my mind), this is not a grey area. Not at all. Yes the guy is grieving. And unstable. But plenty of people in that situation don’t attempt to hire someone to stab a middle-schooler to death. Not even a little.
So by the time they end up not turning over the evidence and just giving the dad a slap on the wrist, because he’s a “good man,” I was done. Not great.
And sadly, because I used up most of my review on those first two points, let me run down the rest real quick-like. Here goes.
3.Cliches- There’s this repeated thing that whenever something really (REALLY) dramatic happens, we get three close-ups of that particular thing, each close-up closer than the last, with a cliched, dramatic DUN DUN DUNNNNN on the soundtrack. Please don’t ever do that again.
4. Twists- A lot of big plot reveals (spoilers if you care, which, really, you shouldn’t) like finding out Mitch’s client really was a bully and a killer, or that the client at the end was that guy who killed himself in the opening chase scene, are so inconsequential or poorly (read: without any suspense) handled that I wondered why they were even in the show.
5. Acting- Not only is Josh Lucas not really charismatic enough to be an fascinating lead character here, but every line out of Juliette Lewis’s mouth made me cringe. Towards the end of the pilot I was secretly hoping for her to die in a sudden twist so that the last few minutes would be devoid of whatever awful thing she might add to the characters’ conversations.
So, overall? Not great.