The Rainmaker (1997)

This is what Coppola has done ever since his days of The Godfather. But that’s not so bad.

When Rudy Baylor (Matt Damon), a young attorney with no clients, goes to work for a seedy ambulance chaser, he wants to help the parents of a terminally ill boy in their suit against an insurance company (represented by Jon Voight). But to take on corporate America, Rudy and a scrappy paralegal (Danny DeVito) must open their own law firm.

Director Francis Ford Coppola (The Godfather, Apocalypse Now, etc.) is a guy known for making classics, but has recently fallen off the map. However, even an OK effort by him isn’t so bad.

Coppola does a very good job with this script because he just directs this the way it should be directed. He isn’t really trying to go for any big emotional punches with this story, he just shows what this court case is all about and how to win it basically. I actually found this more entertaining than anything else because I just want to watch a courtroom drama, and I don’t really need some big life-lesson out of it.

The screenplay is also very well done here and not only has a lot of good moments where their all in the courtroom “duking it out”, but there are also a lot of moments of actual comedy that had me laughing a lot much to my surprise.

However, there are still problems that lie here. The problems that Damon’s character has to go through to win this case, aren’t so deadly as the film makes it seem to be. His character is made to be looking like he’s struggling against all odds, when really he’s just a rookie lawyer going up a lawyer who’s been in the game for about 30 years. I mean yeah, that is pretty nerve-raking but the film made it seem like he would never be able to pull it off, when in reality, it was pretty obvious he could.

Another problem with the movie is the sometimes ridiculous names these characters were given. A major insurance company named “Great Benefit” seems just a little corny to me, as does a sneaky lawyer named “Deck Shifflet,” and a woman who is looked on by her insurance company as a piece of trassh, named “Dot Black.” I mean, come on, you actually expect me to believe these almost comic-book-like names.

The real benefit of this whole film is the cast that really brought these characters to life. Matt Damon is charming here as our hero, Rudy Baylor; Danny DeVito is perfect as this sneaky and shady para-lawyer named Deck Shifflet; Mary Kay Place is good and emotionally there as a mother; and Claire Danes is sort of chilling in her performance as Kelly Riker, who has to constantly put up with the assault from her hubby. There are also some nice little spots in here from the likes of Virginia Madsen, Mickey Rourke, Roy Scheider, and a randomly uncredited, Danny Glover as our judge. He was probably getting too old for that shit too! OK that was lame I know.

The best out of the whole cast though is Jon Voight as this smarmy and ruthless lawyer named Leo F. Drummond, who on paper seems like a totally cliche and predictable character, but the way Voight plays him makes this character a great guy you just love to hate because you can always see that he’s one step ahead of everyone else. The film brings no actual surprises but at the end of the film, there’s this little touch that the film provides and basically tells us that even when you win, sometimes you lose, and this is what Voight shows perfectly.

Consensus: The Rainmaker may not offer any real surprises, but the strong direction from Coppola and the good performances from this ensemble cast, keeps this film watchable and interesting as it goes along.



  1. Hey Dan — Nice points about this classic. Sorry I’ve been away. Away too long. Glad to finally drop by, caught this one at the top of your list, thought I’d chime in. I really liked this one and by the looks of your review, we’re in agreement on many points. I had to chuckle about the names you pointed out. They are indeed too “on the nose” for their own good. In filmschool, we’re taught to use names that imply something about the nature of the person, informs in some way a detail that summarizes their role in the story, and ultimately just how they fit into the puzzle piece narrative. Often if you go back and look at the names it’s sort of funny to see how silly they can be. That gives me an idea – I think I’ll write an article about this! I’ll let you know when it’s posted if you’d like to check it out. At any rate, I agree with your feelings about Coppola. I haven’t been interested in his latest films. I really wanted to like Tetro and Youth Without Youth; both films felt like he was trying to say something, comment on his career and life as a filmmaker, get back to character driven stories with strong stories that could be a snap shot taken out of the front page of the newspaper. These films feel overly thought out, stylized to the point of unavailable and the casting doesn’t work for me. I’ve never been that much of a fan of Vincent Gallo (no, not even Buffalo 66′ as many people cite as one of his best films) and Tim Roth hasn’t impressed me since Pulp Fiction (though he was devilishly good in Rob Roy and notable in Four Rooms). Good to see you point out Jon Voight in this film, he’s an amazing actor with a stellar career – lets see, 76 credits on IMDB, most people don’t know he did 3-years of television on Gunsmoke and if you have not seen Deliverance you absolutely must, like right now! I think I would have given this film 8/10, but you’re not that far off. Cheers->

  2. Well, this is one of Coppola’s better outputs from his post-great period of the 1980s and 1990s. It’s way better than that godawful film “Jack”. Yet, he only did it because he needed the money and to pay off some debts at the time. This was an OK film but the stuff he did afterwards were more interesting.

    • Anything is better than that crap Jack but honestly I think he’s ready for a come-back soon. It just all depends on how crazy he wants to get. Thanks Steve!

  3. Its not a bad flick. As far as the “Courtroom Drama” genre goes, this is a decent entry. It’s not worthy of the Coppola name, really, but its hardly his least embarrassing effort.

    I like DeVito in this a lot actually. And Rourke. It’s like a really solid B movie watch it on a sick day or a Sunday morning type movie.

    Yet another review you nail dude. 😀

  4. Always enjoyed The Rainmaker, but I too haven’t seen it in ages. Might have to go back and revisit it soon! Great review too, by the way!

  5. Another film that I haven’t seen. I just don’t know how I am going to fit this in at the moment, even though after reading your write up I am very intrigued.

    Thanks for doing a great job matey

  6. I’ve always really loved this movie. I think it’s incredibly engrossing for what it is. It was also my introduction to Matt Damon and that holds some sway in my book. Good review!

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