A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that threats of violence and death, often directed against an 11-year-old boy, are constant here. The movie begins with him almost becoming a victim in a murder-suicide (showing how to rig up a car exhaust as a suicide device in the process). Young Mark is no angel, swearing at PG-13 level (as do most other characters) and smoking. Both Mark's family and Reggie's have been ruined by drinking and divorce.
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- Kids say
What's the story?
An adaptation of a John Grisham legal-thriller bestseller, THE CLIENT starts in rural Tennessee. Adolescent Mark Sway (Brad Renfro) and his fragile younger brother, sons of a struggling single mother, stumble across a crazed, suicidal lawyer in the woods, determined to kill himself -- and maybe Mark, too. Before the mob-connected attorney shoots himself in the mouth (offscreen) he tells Mark where to find the corpse of a missing Louisiana senator, victim of Mafia assassin Barry "the Blade" Maldonado (Anthony LaPaglia) in a sensational corruption case. Figuring he's in hot water, Mark tries to convince the hard-charging police and a glory-seeking federal prosecutor Roy Foltrigg (Tommy Lee Jones) that he doesn't know anything, but both cops and the menacing Barry the Blade (working through corrupt lawmen) try to intimidate the boy. On his own, with his brother in a traumatic coma, Mark randomly solicits small-time lawyer Reggie Love (Susan Sarandon) to protect his legal rights. Though she and Mark frequently clash, Reggie turns out to be surprisingly good at confronting the bullies on both sides of the law.
Is it any good?
A slick Hollywood entertainment, excitingly paced and well-acted throughout, The Client still paints a pretty dark world for the sympathetic young hero. It's also a strong debut role for ill-fated Brad Renfro. Both the "good" guys and the bad guys repeatedly gloat that Mark is helpless, poor white trash, with no connections or resources (or a father) to look after him in a predatory world.
There's a feminist sub-theme when Reggie comes through for Mark and his family (when a male lawyer failed to). The demure-seeming, small-time Reggie turns out to be the proverbial Steel Magnolia with a night-school law degree, far more compassionate about the innocent than the Bible-quoting Foltrigg.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the relationship between Mark and Reggie. How does she eventually win his trust, despite a dysfunctional background? What could Mark have done differently from the outset, and how are his preconceptions from watching TV cop shows helpful or hurtful? How realistic do you think this movie is? How about TV cop shows?
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