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Cinemalphabet: F is for The Firm (1993)

December 6, 2010

A Movement in Five Parts

I'm not talking about dance lessons; I'm talking about putting a brick through the other guy's window!

Prelude

Everyone’s absolutely at their hammy best in the legal thriller The Firm – even Cruise – but Busey, Harris, Brimley and Hunter steal the show. Holly Hunter was even nominated for Best Supporting Actress for her role in The Firm. She lost; but that’s okay. I’m pretty sure winning Best Actress later on that same evening more than made up for it.

Whether it's with a copier machine or piano? Holly is tops.

I – In Defense of John Grisham

From a film snob standpoint The Firm has two strikes against it: it’s based on a novel by John Grisham and it stars Tom Cruise. I can’t help you reconcile the latter, but I can make a case for the former. Grisham is the writer’s patron. He donates his fortune and his name to support writers (with programs that emphasize inclusion of writers on the margins, specifically Southern writers) with scholarships and residences he funds at U of Miss. I also enjoy his books. I find his economy of language – not so much the books, which are long, but the sentences themselves – refreshing. His syntax is reminiscent of Hemingway and it’s a style I prefer. Grisham also tells great stories. Who know jurisprudence could be so gothic? That said, the book is better than the movie, but only because the book has more space to tell the story. Like Grisham, director Sydney Pollack is also economical; the film wastes not a single frame as it dutifully marches towards its entertaining, yet inevitable resolution.

I do my best work in parking garages and under the cover of darkness.

II – The Hal Holbrook Effect

The film is also notable for being another excellent example of the Hal Holbrook theorem, which states if you are a character in a legal thriller and see Hal Holbrook coming towards you in a three piece suit it’s best to run in the other direction, as fast as you can.

other examples include:
All The President’s Men
Capricorn One

III – Security the Wilford Brimley Way: It’s the Right Thing to Do

He's got something in that briefcase and it ain't oatmeal.

William Devasher, the sinister head of security for Bendini, Lambert & Locke runs a purty tight ship. Look mutherfucker, he gets paid to be suspicious when he’s got nothing to be suspicious about. He’s got to keep an eye on these shifty Xerox and fax happy junior associates, so best not be getting in his way. When it comes Mr. Devasher you’ve got two choices: The easy way (not being blown to bits on a fishing boat) or The hard way (being blown to bits on a fishing boat in the Caymans after first having some really raunchy photos sent to your widow to be.)

Devasher is robustly played by Wilford Brimley in a stunning example of against type casting. He’s one of the best part of The Firm and here’s his tips for keeping things neat and real orderly like.

Wear dark glasses.

  • Now these glasses don’t have to be all the way dark, but just blue blocker enough to keep wayward employees from being able to see the laser beams you call eyes.

Set some examples.

  • Someone trying to leave the firm? Well we can’t be having that kind of mutiny. Send those traitors on a nice junket to the Caymans; be sure to bring along a really creepy guy who looks like the love child of Max Zorin and Mr. Joshua.

Develop an interest in photography.

  • A picture does really says a thousand words and when most of those words are of the “ooh give it to me, baby” variety, no doubt even the most resistant of associates – cough Mitch cough – will quickly get on message. The Firm strongly discourages not getting the fucking message.

Tell other people how to do their job.

  • One of the partners cutting up in class? School him big time. Tell him what his job his by alluding to your own. Ask him if he likes getting into a car without it blowing up. That should cut down on some of that back talk. Folks get real quiet when forced to examine the harsh reality of their own demise.

Drive a big ass old lady Buick.

  • Preferably burgundy, but gunmetal gray is nice too. Bonus points for taking corners and U-turns like a retired cop, because most likely you probably are. Fish tailing is for closers.

Take your lumps graciously.

  • Even the best of security experts will find themselves getting the oats kicked out of them by a Xerox and fax happy junior associate who has just fucking had enough. Go down graciously knowing you’ve served your organization well. Retirement is just another word for nothing left to lose.

Coda: The Trailer

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. December 6, 2010 1:56 pm

    I can’t believe I haven’t seen this movie, which has a TON of people I enjoy watching in it. Except for Cruise who I am just ambivalent about (except in The Color of Money).

  2. December 6, 2010 4:12 pm

    The Cruise factor scares off many. I feel the same way. Pollack is good with Cruise and does what DePalma did with Cruise in M:I, which is to neutralize all his annoying habits, mannerisms and tics.

  3. December 6, 2010 4:51 pm

    I will Netflix the heck outta this!

  4. December 6, 2010 4:52 pm

    Did Holly Hunter’s hair get nominated in this too? Because it appears to be having an all-you-can-eat buffet with the scenery…

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