Director Robert Altman may have won the battle with Polygram Films, but lost the war. You may have heard how Polygram was dissatisfied with Altman’s edit of this all-star cast with an original John Grisham screenplay. The studio took the picture away and re-edited it, but after audience testing both versions, Altman’s cut won out. However, Polygram, in retaliation, is barely promoting it and releasing on the level of some art film.
It’s a shame since this film is by far the best related to Grisham, Jedi master of the legal thriller. (It kind of makes you realize what a hack Sydney Pollack really is). Hell, without some giant evil government or corporate entity, you can’t even tell this is Grisham. Altman has created a southern noir.
Set in Savannah, Georgia, Rick MacGruder (Kenneth Branagh), a hot shot criminal defense attorney, falls for Mallory Doss (Embeth Davitz), a white trash waitress who’s terrorized by her seemingly insane father (Robert Duvall). The situation goes to hell as hurricane Geraldo hits town and Rick has to dig himself out of a big mess he’s created for himself.
The performances are great. Branagh, who I want to strangle with every Shakespeare adaptation he rams down our throats, sports a flawless Savannah accent that puts every other Brit’s try at a Southern voice to shame. Darryl Hannah, as Rick’s associate, reminds you she actually has talent. Best of all, Robert Downey Jr., as Rick’s seedy private eye provides a little comic relief at his own expense (“I don’t want that drunken pervert around my kids!”).