The Client

Movie review by
Charles Cassady Jr., Common Sense Media
The Client Movie Poster Image
Plucky, terrorized boy at heart of legal thriller.
  • PG-13
  • 1994
  • 121 minutes

Parents say

age 9+
Based on 4 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 2 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Rebellious boy hero Mark is resourceful, and also ethical enough to try and stop a total stranger committing suicide. He still needs to be dissuaded from using violence as a solution in the end. Police officers and public prosecutors are portrayed as menacing or selfish characters who threaten Mark -- with the exception of the African American judge and Reggie, who is like a mother figure.

Violence

A threatened murder-suicide, with a child as a potential victim. Shooting, and a tackle/beating, and one character blows his brains out (just offscreen). There's an arson fire and threats of stabbing and torture. Quick shot of a rotted corpse.

Sex
Language

Lots of the "s" word, plus "asshole," "bitch," "bastard," and "hell." Mark gives the bad guy the finger.

Consumerism

Mostly local-color connections to Memphis and Elvis tourism, and the natural tie-in to John Grisham books.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Mark smokes cigarettes and "protectively" orders his little brother not to smoke more than one per day. Mark is asked if he does harder drugs. Statements of drug abuse in Reggie's past. Massive drinking by the suicidal lawyer.

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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 12 year old Written byTsion April 9, 2008

An Engrossing and Enjoyable Legal Thriller for Adults and Older Kids

I read John Grisham's THE CLIENT not so long ago and loved it. The young hero, 11-year old Mark Sway, was easy to root for, Reggie was indisputably likabl... Continue reading
Adult Written byaveeck October 21, 2012

TOO MUCH PROFANITY!!

We gave it a try and were quickly embarrassed as the movie starts with a string of profanities from the mouths of adults and children alike. We hoped it would... Continue reading
Kid, 12 years old April 26, 2014

Worth watching.

The Client was actually a good movie with some dramatizing scenes and heavy violence along with some swear words and scenes of an 11 year old boy smoking. It w... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written byAthanaric February 28, 2011

Book was better

Book was better, w/e.

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?

Movie details

For kids who love thrilling dramas

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