The Client Movie Poster Image

The Client



Plucky, terrorized boy at heart of legal thriller.
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 1994
  • Running Time: 121 minutes

What parents need to know

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.


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.

Not applicable

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


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.

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.

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.

Families can talk 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

Theatrical release date:July 20, 1994
DVD/Streaming release date:December 19, 1997
Cast:Brad Renfro, Susan Sarandon, Tommy Lee Jones
Director:Joel Schumacher
Studio:Warner Bros.
Run time:121 minutes
MPAA rating:PG-13
MPAA explanation:a child in jeopardy and brief language

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What parents and kids say

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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 likable, and the plot moved quickly and just kept picking up speed. I purchased the film from eBay with high hopes. The good news: the film met my expectations and is a great (though not perfect) adaptation of the book. The casting is spot-on. The bad news: It's definatly NOT appropriate for kids under 12 or some very mature 11-year olds. Language is a HUGE issue, with frequent uses of "s**t", "a*s", "d**n", "b**ch", and "bas***d". Young Mark curses too,and one third of the cursing comes from him alone. He also gives a threatening mobster "the finger" and smokes. Violence is iffy. A drunk, suicidal man violently yanks Mark into his car and threatens him while telling him secrets. Later the man shoots himself in the head (offscreen), and Mark is threatened with knives and guns by mobsters. Reggie is almost killed by a mafia member. Mark lies and steals and people we would normally look up too, like the FBI and police, cheat and break rules. But the film is still immensly enjoyable. It is intriguing and holds your attention from start to finish, and Susan Sarandon and Tommy Lee Jones shine in roles that it seemes they were made for. Highly recommended.
Parent Written byaveeck October 21, 2012


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 get better, but it does not. Violence was very difficult, too, as it deals with suicide and children in life/death situations.
What other families should know
Too much swearing
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 was all in all an entertaining thriller.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking