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The Client Review

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Two boys witness a gruesome suicide, but not before the self-terminator spills his guts about his involvement in an underworld murder to the terrified, reluctant Mark. Before long the cops, Feds, press, self-publicising US prosecutor (Jones, serving up his delicious ham) and the mobsters in question all get wind of the boy's incriminating knowledge, and the chase is on.

★★★★

The Client was the third of John Grisham's legal thrillers to be adapted for the screen within 18 months. As such, it was inescapably viewed as the latest episode of a publishing movie phenomenon: less starry and glitzy than the previous two, shorter on action, longer on legal wrangling and substantially stronger on characterisation. With its abundance of juicy performances and Schumacher's grip on what made it a page-turner, it's a taut suspense thriller.

The Client of the title is an 11-year-old boy, the poor but spunky Mark Sway (Renfro), disadvantaged dweller in a Tennessee trailer park with his single mother and little brother. The boys witness a gruesome suicide, but not before the self-terminator spills his guts about his involvement in an underworld murder to the terrified, reluctant Mark. Before long the cops, Feds, press, self-publicising US prosecutor (Jones, serving up his delicious ham) and the mobsters in question all get wind of the boy's incriminating knowledge, and the chase is on. Enter Susan Sarandon, marvellous as lawyer Reggie Lowe, a dried-out drunk in need of redemption, to fight imperilled Mark's case for staying out of the hot seat as a star witness who doesn't want to talk.

Trying to control at least 47 fiends running around, Schumacher does an efficient job at keeping them sorted. Helpfully, they all look like baddies - with Anthony LaPaglia taking the cake as principal mob meanie. Far from being cute, the boy is a pain in the arse, but this is Sarandon's show in which she strikes just the right notes from tough, smart and sassy to vulnerable and touching. Recommended.

Schumacher handles the many characters efficiently and Susan Sarandon's performance captures a range of emotions and attitudes.