The Firm (1993)

R | 155 mins | Drama, Mystery | 30 June 1993

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HISTORY

Paramount Pictures executive Lance Young received the manuscript for John Grisham’s as yet unpublished novel, The Firm, in late Dec 1989, first from producer John Davis, and days later, from producer Scott Rudin, who had a production deal at Paramount. As noted in the 26 Jan 1990 Publishers Weekly, on 7 Jan 1990, Paramount finalized a deal with John Grisham’s New York City agent, Jay Garon, paying $350,000 against $600,000 for film rights. The purchase catalyzed interest from publishers, and the book was released by Doubleday in 1991. It went on to sell seven million copies by the time the film opened, according to the 30 Jun 1993 LAT.
       At Paramount’s request, John Davis and Scott Rudin agreed to work together. Ignoring the studio’s prohibition against approaching actors directly, they visited Tom Cruise on the set of A Few Good Men (1992, see entry) and presented him with the project as a potential starring and directing vehicle. Cruise did not want to direct, but was interested in the role of “Mitch McDeere,” depending on the director. According to items in the 3 Feb 1992 and 16 Mar 1992 Var, Lili Fini Zanuck, Kevin Reynolds, John McTiernan, John Badham, and Ron Howard were considered before Sydney Pollack came on board to direct.
       Playwright David Rabe was hired to adapt the screenplay. He wrote two or three early drafts that were deemed unsatisfactory for deviating too far from the novel. A Paramount executive, quoted in a 4 Jul 1993 LAT article, described Rabe’s version as “a kind of Faustian epic” in which “Abby McDeere” is raped, “Ray McDeere” is ... More Less

Paramount Pictures executive Lance Young received the manuscript for John Grisham’s as yet unpublished novel, The Firm, in late Dec 1989, first from producer John Davis, and days later, from producer Scott Rudin, who had a production deal at Paramount. As noted in the 26 Jan 1990 Publishers Weekly, on 7 Jan 1990, Paramount finalized a deal with John Grisham’s New York City agent, Jay Garon, paying $350,000 against $600,000 for film rights. The purchase catalyzed interest from publishers, and the book was released by Doubleday in 1991. It went on to sell seven million copies by the time the film opened, according to the 30 Jun 1993 LAT.
       At Paramount’s request, John Davis and Scott Rudin agreed to work together. Ignoring the studio’s prohibition against approaching actors directly, they visited Tom Cruise on the set of A Few Good Men (1992, see entry) and presented him with the project as a potential starring and directing vehicle. Cruise did not want to direct, but was interested in the role of “Mitch McDeere,” depending on the director. According to items in the 3 Feb 1992 and 16 Mar 1992 Var, Lili Fini Zanuck, Kevin Reynolds, John McTiernan, John Badham, and Ron Howard were considered before Sydney Pollack came on board to direct.
       Playwright David Rabe was hired to adapt the screenplay. He wrote two or three early drafts that were deemed unsatisfactory for deviating too far from the novel. A Paramount executive, quoted in a 4 Jul 1993 LAT article, described Rabe’s version as “a kind of Faustian epic” in which “Abby McDeere” is raped, “Ray McDeere” is murdered, and Mitch McDeere seeks revenge by bursting into his law firm and gunning everyone down – none of which was in Grisham’s book. Screenwriter Daniel Pyne was brought on to replace Rabe. After he wrote two more drafts, Pyne was replaced by David Rayfiel, who was tasked with re-writing the character of “Avery Tolar” as a woman when Pollack decided to cast Meryl Streep in the role, as noted in the 12 May 1992 DV and 17 May 1992 LAT. The decision was later reversed, and Gene Hackman was cast instead of Streep. In Mar 1992, still unsatisfied with the script, Pollack hired his friend and neighbor, Academy Award-winning screenwriter Robert Towne, who agreed to step away from his current project, a film adaptation of Paul Lindsay’s book, Witness to the Truth (New York, 1992), to spend three weeks rewriting The Firm, as noted in a 7 Jul 1992 DV item.
       Around the time David Rayfiel became involved, John Grisham was rumored to be unhappy with the way the film was being adapted. However, an 8 Mar 1992 LAT item quoted Grisham as saying he had not seen the script nor had he spoken to anyone at Paramount in the two years since the book was sold. Towne and Rayfiel’s rewrites deviated from Grisham’s novel by rearranging the order of events and devising a new ending, in which Mitch McDeere masterminds a way to avoid being disbarred by exposing the firm’s overbilling practices instead of incriminating the Moroltos, and Abby McDeere helps him by seducing and drugging Avery Tolar.
       An 8 Mar 1992 LAT item noted that location scouting was underway in Memphis, TN. However, filming, which had originally been set for summer 1992, was delayed until fall due to changes in “top-level management” at Paramount, and a looming actors’ strike.
       An item in the 29 Jun 1993 LAT listed the production budget as $45 million. It was reported in the 27 Jun 1993 LAT and 12 Jul 1993 NYT that Tom Cruise received a salary of $12 million, Sydney Pollack was paid an estimated $5.5 million, and both would receive a share of the box-office gross. Gene Hackman was paid an estimated $2 million for the role of Avery Tolar. Because he came onto the project later than Tom Cruise, whose contract stipulated only his name could appear above the title in advertisements, Hackman chose to remove his name from advertisements entirely. Frontrunners for the role of Abby McDeere included Jeanne Tripplehorn, Robin Wright, and Bridget Fonda, according to a 13 Oct 1992 DV brief. Tripplehorn was ultimately cast.
       Principal photography began 9 Nov 1992, as stated in the 3 Nov 1992 HR production chart. The first three months of filming took place in Memphis, according to a 28 Feb 1993 Long Beach Press-Telegram item, followed by filming in the Cayman Islands, which stipulated a disclaimer in end credits, denying the Cayman Islands were a “money-laundering haven” as depicted in the film, according to the 25 Jan 1993 Var. The company moved to Washington, D.C. on 14 Mar 1993, as stated in a 17 Mar 1993 HR item. There, filming took place between 15 and 17 Mar 1993, and on 18 Mar, cast and crew went to Boston, MA, for the final days of shooting.
       A 25 Jun 1993 NYT article listed Memphis locals from the law community who appeared in uncredited roles, or as background actors, including: prosecutor Barbara Zoccola, who played a bar exam proctor; Judge George Brown and Mike McLaren, both of whom appeared in a basketball scene; married couples Steve and Diana Vescovo, and Chris and Anna Vescovo; head of the Memphis Bar Association, Alex Wellford and his cousin, Judge Harry W. Wellford; former Attorney General of Tennessee, Mike Cody, who played a bit part and served, along with Kathy Story, as a technical legal advisor; and Mike Williams, Joe Barnwell, and Bill Gibbons, who appeared in portraits as lawyers who had been murdered.
       The 28 Feb 1993 Long Beach Press-Telegram noted that furnishings and other items from the Memphis set were donated to a fundraiser for Les Paseese Children’s Rehabilitation Center, in which the McDeere’s iron bed was auctioned for $3,800; an attorney-at-law sign signed by Tom Cruise went for $1,900; and John Grisham paid $19,000 for a 100-year-old Wooton desk.
       An item in the Jun 1993 issue of Pulse! magazine stated that songwriter-producer Jim Dickinson, who produced the song “I Sho’ Do” used in the film, served as an off-camera piano player. However, Dickinson is not credited.
       The Jun 1993 issue of Spy magazine reported a rumor that Pollack banned Scott Rudin from the set. Rudin was also rumored to have had problems with John Grisham, who allegedly preferred dealing with John Davis.
       A controversy arose over screenwriting credits, as noted in the 4 Jul 1993 LAT. Although Daniel Pyne did not request a credit on the final film, David Rabe did, angering Scott Rudin and executive producer Lindsay Doran, who claimed Rabe’s contributions to the final script amounted to “one-half of a line of dialogue.” A Writers Guild of America (WGA) arbitration ruled in Rabe’s favor, necessitating early advertisements for the film, which credited only Robert Towne and David Rayfiel, be replaced. The decision also made Rabe eligible to receive residual payments, if the film made a profit. Sydney Pollack, Scott Rudin, and Lindsay Doran wrote letters of protest to the WGA, but the decision was upheld.
       The theatrical release, initially scheduled for 2 Jul 1993, was moved up two days to 30 Jun 1993, to get “a jump” on other major films opening over the Fourth of July weekend, including Walt Disney Pictures’ re-release of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1938, see entry) and Son-in-Law (1993, see entry). The film opened on 2,339 screens, according to the 29 Jun 1993 LAT, and took in $7.2 million in box-office receipts the first day, setting a record for the highest-grossing “midweek opening of a non-sequel film” to that time, as stated in the 2 Jul 1993 LAT.
       Reviews were mixed. Critics generally concurred the film had box-office potential and solid performances, especially by Tom Cruise, despite a lagging 155-minute running time. In a 9 Sep 1993 interview in The Times [London], Sydney Pollack stated his own belief that the film was too long and claimed he would have made it shorter had there been more time for post-production. Regardless, The Firm was a commercial success, taking in $145 million in domestic box-office receipts in the first eight weeks of release.
       Holly Hunter, who plays secretary “Tammy Hemphill,” was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role, and Dave Grusin received an Academy Award nomination for Best Music – Original Score, and Grammy Award nomination for Best Instrumental Composition Written for a Motion Picture or for Television.
       According to the 12 Jul 1993 NYT, Paramount gave $100,000 Mercedes SL convertibles to Tom Cruise, Sydney Pollack, and Scott Rudin as thank-you gifts. Although John Davis was offered one as well, he requested the money be donated to the Fulfillment Fund, a charity providing college tuition to underprivileged teenagers in Los Angeles, CA.
       A 9 Jan 1994 Long Beach Press-Telegram brief noted the city of Memphis devised a walking tour of filming locations, and made itineraries available at the Visitors Information Center. The film’s popularity also prompted a 53% spike in sales of Red Stripe beer, which Mitch McDeere is seen drinking in the Cayman Islands, as noted in the Oct 1995 issue of Playboy.
       End credits include the following statements: "The Producers would like to acknowledge: Office furniture provided by Kimball International; selected men's wardrobe by Paul Stuart; Gene Hackman's wardrobe provided by Canali; Anne Klein II Apparel and Accessories; Arrow Shirts & Hosiery; business machines serviced by Mid-South Systems, Inc.; The Florsheim Shoe Company; Southland Dog Track; Union Planters NAtional Bank; Memphis State University; Bob Soto's Diving, Ltd.; the People of Memphis, Tennessee; Mayors W. W. Herenton and William N. Morris; Linn Sitler and the Memphis and Shelby County Film, Tape and Music Commission," and, "Special thanks to: Ruth Pomerance; John S. Edmunds, Esq., Edmunds & Verga; Anthony Pellicano." Finally stated: "The Producers wish to thank the Cayman Islands government and His Excellency Mr. Michael Gore, CBE, Governor, for their cooperation in the making of this film and acknowledge that the Cayman Islands have strict antidrug and money laundering laws which are rigorously enforced." More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
18 Jan 1990.
---
Daily Variety
3 Feb 1992.
---
Daily Variety
12 May 1992.
---
Daily Variety
7 Jul 1992.
---
Daily Variety
13 Oct 1992.
---
Daily Variety
28 Jun 1993
p. 2, 12.
Hollywood Reporter
3 Nov 1992.
---
Hollywood Reporter
17 Mar 1993.
---
Hollywood Reporter
22 Jun 1993
p. 6, 117.
Hollywood Reporter
28 Jun 1993
p. 6, 24.
Hollywood Reporter
22 Jul 1993.
---
Long Beach Press-Telegram
28 Feb 1993.
---
Long Beach Press-Telegram
9 Jan 1994.
---
Los Angeles Times
8 Mar 1992
p. 25.
Los Angeles Times
17 May 1992
p. 16.
Los Angeles Times
15 May 1993
Calendar, p. 2.
Los Angeles Times
6 Jun 1993
Calendar, p. 24.
Los Angeles Times
27 Jun 1993
p. 25.
Los Angeles Times
29 Jun 1993
Section D, p. 4.
Los Angeles Times
30 Jun 1993
p. 1
Los Angeles Times
2 Jul 1993
p. 1.
Los Angeles Times
4 Jul 1993
Calendar, p. 27.
Los Angeles Times
5 Jul 1993
Section C, p. 17.
Los Angeles Times
7 Jul 1993
p. 1.
Los Angeles Times
12 Jul 1993
Section C, p. 13.
New York
21 Sep 1992.
---
New York Times
25 Jun 1993
Section B, p. 16.
New York Times
30 Jun 1993
p. 15.
New York Times
12 Jul 1993
Section C, p. 13.
Newsday
13 Apr 1992
p. 11.
Newsday
6 Nov 1992
p. 11.
People
5 Apr 1993.
---
People
21 Jun 1993.
---
Playboy
Oct 1995.
---
Publishers Weekly
26 Jan 1990.
---
Pulse!
Jun 1993.
---
Spy
Jun 1993.
---
The Times (London)
9 Sep 1993.
---
Variety
3 Feb 1992.
---
Variety
16 Mar 1992.
---
Variety
25 Jan 1993.
---
Variety
12 Jul 1993.
---
Variety
12 Jul 1993
p. 52.
Variety
20 May 1996.
---
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
Paramount Pictures presents
A John Davis/ Scott Rudin/ Mirage production
A film by Sydney Pollack
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Unit prod mgr
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
2d 2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
Prod
Exec prod
Exec prod
WRITERS
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Steadicam/Cam op
Chief lighting tech
1st company grip
1st asst cam
2d asst cam
Steadicam/Cam asst
Cam loader
Still photog
Cableperson
Video asst
Asst chief lighting tech
Elec
Rigging elec
2d company grip
Rigging grip
Aerial cam
Aerial 1st asst cam
Underwater photog
Aerial photog pilot, Grand Cayman Island unit
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Asst art dir
Art dept coord
Art dept coord, Grand Cayman Islands unit
FILM EDITORS
Post prod supv
Asst film ed
Asst film ed
Asst film ed
Apprentice film ed
Apprentice film ed
Negative cutter
SET DECORATORS
Prop master
Const coord
Paint supv
Asst set dec
Set dresser
Set dresser
Set dresser
Set dresser
Greensperson
Asst prop master
Prop asst
Set supv/Ward
Const foreperson
Const foreperson
Const mgr
Prod painter
COSTUMES
Cost des
Cost supv
Mr. Cruise's cost
Asst cost des
Ward asst
MUSIC
Mus score comp and performed by
Mus ed
Mus rec
Piano consultant
Mus consultant
SOUND
Sd mixer
Boom op
Supv sd ed
Sd eff ed
Sd eff ed
Supv ADR ed
Dial ed
Dial ed
Dial ed
Foley ed
Foley ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
Addl spec eff
Title des
Titles and opticals
MAKEUP
Key hairstylist
Mr. Cruise's hairstyles
Makeup supv
Mr. Cruise's make-up
Craft service
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
Unit mgr
Prod coord
Scr supv
Prod accountant
Transportation coord
Asst prod coord
Loc coord
Casting assoc
Casting asst
Loc casting consultant
Voice casting
Asst prod accountant
Asst prod accountant
Payroll accountant
Accounting asst
Helicopter pilot
Transportation capt
Transportation dispatcher
Picture car coord
Transportation asst
Animal trainer
Computer graphics and engineering
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Asst to Mr. Pollack
Asst to Mr. Cruise
Asst to Mr. Rudin
Asst to Mr. Davis
Asst to Mr. Hausman
Asst to Mr. Hausman
Asst to Ms. Doran
Catering
Craft service asst
Police coord
Loc mgr, Grand Cayman Islands unit
Loc mgr, Grand Cayman Islands unit
Asst loc mgr, Grand Cayman Islands unit
Extras casting, Grand Cayman Islands unit
Asst prod coord, Washington, D.C. unit
Loc mgr, Washington, D.C. unit
Loc asst, Washington, D.C. unit
Loc mgr, Boston unit
Loc mgr, Boston unit
STAND INS
Stunt coord
COLOR PERSONNEL
Dailies by
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel The Firm by John Grisham (New York, 1991).
AUTHOR
SONGS
“Start It Up,” by Robben Ford, performed by Robben Ford & The Blue Line, courtesy of GRP Records, Inc.
“The Firm Shuffle,” by Lannie McMillan, Scott Reed, Richard Cesani & Gregory McIntyre, performed by The Lannie McMillan Quartet
“Another Cup Of Coffee,” by Lannie McMillan, Scott Reed, Richard Cesani & Gregory McIntyre, performed by The Lannie McMillan Quartet
+
SONGS
“Start It Up,” by Robben Ford, performed by Robben Ford & The Blue Line, courtesy of GRP Records, Inc.
“The Firm Shuffle,” by Lannie McMillan, Scott Reed, Richard Cesani & Gregory McIntyre, performed by The Lannie McMillan Quartet
“Another Cup Of Coffee,” by Lannie McMillan, Scott Reed, Richard Cesani & Gregory McIntyre, performed by The Lannie McMillan Quartet
“Sweet Memphis,” by Lannie McMillan, Scott Reed, Richard Cesani & Gregory McIntyre, performed by The Lannie McMillan Quartet
“Save The Best For Last,” by Wendy Waldman, Jon Lind & Phil Galdston, performed by Clair Marlo Orchestra
“Maple Drive,” written & performed by Jack Allocco
“Don’t Put No Headstone On My Grave,” written & performed by Charlie Rich, courtesy of Sire Records by arrangement with Warner Special Products
“Maple Drive,” written & performed by Jack Allocco
“Out Of The Blue,” written & performed by Andy Narell, courtesy of Windham Hill Jazz
“Down De Road,” written & performed by Andy Narell, courtesy of Windham Hill Jazz
“Money, Money, Money,” by George Nowak, performed by George Nowak, Henry Leslie, Mark McTaggard & Harry Johnston
“Stormy Monday,” written & performed by T-Bone Walker, courtesy of Gregmark Records
“I Sho Do,” by Mabon Hodges & Billy Always, performed by Ollie Nightingale, Ollie Nightingale performs courtesy of Goldwax Records Co., Inc.
“M-O-N-E-Y,” written & performed by Lyle Lovett, courtesy of MCA/Curb Records
“Guitar Blues,” written & performed by Little Jimmy King, Little Jimmy King performs courtesy of Rounder Records
“Dance Class,” by Andy Narell, performed by Dave Samuels, courtesy of GRP Records, Inc.
“Stars On The Water,” by Rodney Crowell, performed by Jimmy Buffett, courtesy of MCA Records
“Blame It On The Rum,” written & performed by James White
“Oboe Concerto In D Minor- Adagio,” by A. Marcello, performed by Philharmonia Orchestra, Oboe: John Anderson, conductor: Simon Wright, courtesy of Nimbus Records
“Never Mind,” by Harlan Howard, performed by Nanci Griffith, courtesy of MCA Records.
+
DETAILS
Release Date:
30 June 1993
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles and New York openings: 30 June 1993
Production Date:
began 9 November 1992
Copyright Claimant:
Paramount Pictures Corporation
Copyright Date:
10 August 1993
Copyright Number:
PA625508
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Lenses
Filmed with Panavision® cameras and lenses
Prints
Prints by Deluxe®
Duration(in mins):
155
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
32262
SYNOPSIS

Graduating at the top of his Harvard Law School class, Mitch McDeere receives numerous job offers. The Memphis, Tennessee, law firm of Bendini, Lambert & Locke promises the highest salary, a Mercedes sports car, and a low-interest home loan. After visiting the firm with his wife, Abby, an elementary school teacher, Mitch accepts the offer, despite Abby’s misgivings about the firm’s clannish ways. On his first day at work, Mitch arrives early to begin studying for the Tennessee bar examination. He meets his designated mentor, Avery Tolar, who specializes in forming limited partnerships through offshore corporations, mainly in the Cayman Islands. Avery believes laws should be bent as much as possible without breaking them. He asks Mitch to study a deal he initiated for Sonny Capps, a businessman who earned $14 million last year but paid less than four percent in taxes. Later, Mitch and Abby McDeere arrive for dinner at the home of young associate Lamar Quinn. Lamar’s wife, Kay, greets them in tears, and delivers the news that Marty Kozinski and Joe Hodges, also lawyers at the firm, were killed in a SCUBA diving accident off Grand Cayman Island. Mitch and Abby attend Marty Kozinski’s funeral, where Avery Tolar offends Abby by flirting with her. One night, at a diner, Mitch encounters a mysterious man, who comments on the recent deaths of Kozinski and Hodges, and laments that four out of forty-one lawyers at the firm have died in the past ten years. Mitch returns to his office and looks up newspaper articles on the deaths. The next day, he joins Avery on a trip to Grand Cayman to meet Sonny Capp, who is threatening to switch ... +


Graduating at the top of his Harvard Law School class, Mitch McDeere receives numerous job offers. The Memphis, Tennessee, law firm of Bendini, Lambert & Locke promises the highest salary, a Mercedes sports car, and a low-interest home loan. After visiting the firm with his wife, Abby, an elementary school teacher, Mitch accepts the offer, despite Abby’s misgivings about the firm’s clannish ways. On his first day at work, Mitch arrives early to begin studying for the Tennessee bar examination. He meets his designated mentor, Avery Tolar, who specializes in forming limited partnerships through offshore corporations, mainly in the Cayman Islands. Avery believes laws should be bent as much as possible without breaking them. He asks Mitch to study a deal he initiated for Sonny Capps, a businessman who earned $14 million last year but paid less than four percent in taxes. Later, Mitch and Abby McDeere arrive for dinner at the home of young associate Lamar Quinn. Lamar’s wife, Kay, greets them in tears, and delivers the news that Marty Kozinski and Joe Hodges, also lawyers at the firm, were killed in a SCUBA diving accident off Grand Cayman Island. Mitch and Abby attend Marty Kozinski’s funeral, where Avery Tolar offends Abby by flirting with her. One night, at a diner, Mitch encounters a mysterious man, who comments on the recent deaths of Kozinski and Hodges, and laments that four out of forty-one lawyers at the firm have died in the past ten years. Mitch returns to his office and looks up newspaper articles on the deaths. The next day, he joins Avery on a trip to Grand Cayman to meet Sonny Capp, who is threatening to switch to another law firm. Mitch impresses Sonny and persuades him to stay with the firm. Afterward, he goes alone to question Barry Abanks, owner of the SCUBA charter business used by the firm, about the explosion that killed Kozinski and Hodges. Abanks, who also lost his son in the explosion, reveals that two other men were on the charter that day: a long-haired, Nordic man, and a squat man. That evening, Mitch goes to Avery Tolar’s hotel suite. As Avery dresses for dinner, Mitch discovers a locked room filled with boxes of files marked “Moroco Ltd.,” that were prepared by the four dead lawyers: Hodges, Kozinski, Alice Krauss, and Robert Lamm. He and Avery go out dancing. A woman tries to seduce Mitch, but he rejects her. He walks alone on the beach and witnesses a strikingly beautiful young woman struggling with a man. At the sight of Mitch, the attacker flees. The young woman is ashamed to admit the man was a “john” who hired her as a prostitute. Although she works at a travel agency, she was lured into prostitution by the desire to “feel rich.” Mitch, whose father died working in a coal mine, empathizes. She pulls him in for a kiss, and they have sex. On his way back from Grand Cayman, Mitch visits his brother, Ray, in prison. Weary from years of incarceration, Ray asks about their mother. Mitch admits they seldom speak, but she is living in a Florida trailer park with an unsavory boyfriend. When Mitch shares his suspicion that his colleagues might be “crooks,” Ray recommends the services of his former cellmate, private investigator Eddie Lomax. Mitch hires Lomax to investigate the firm, but shortly after, Lomax is killed by a Nordic man and his squat accomplice. In Washington, D.C., while attending a tax seminar, Mitch is approached by Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agent Wayne Tarrance, the mysterious man from the diner, who delivers the news that Lomax was killed. Tarrance directs Mitch to a park bench, where Justice Department investigator F. Denton Voyles reveals that the firm’s largest client is the Morolto crime family of Chicago, Illinois. The firm hides this fact from new recruits until they have become accustomed to their lavish lifestyles. Voyles warns that the firm has likely “bugged” Mitch’s house and telephone. He offers protection in exchange for incriminating documents against the Moroltos. Mitch is outraged, knowing that if he complies, he will be disbarred for breaking attorney-client privilege and forced into the Witness Protection Program. Voyles intends to incriminate everyone at the firm, including Mitch if he fails to cooperate. Offering Mitch his business card, Tarrance suggests the FBI could help with Ray’s parole in exchange for documents. Back in Memphis, Mitch informs Oliver Lambert and the other partners that he was approached by the FBI. However, he only reveals that they are looking for “secret files,” and claims not to know any more. Lambert laughs it off, assuring the rookie lawyer that the Justice Department and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) are always after them. Returning home, Mitch turns up the stereo to tell Abby that the house is bugged. She urges him to leave with her that night, but he feels he has no choice but help the FBI. Eddie Lomax’s grieving secretary and mistress, Tammy Hemphill, arranges a secret rendezvous with Mitch. She gives a description of Lomax’s killers that matches Barry Abanks’s description. Later that day, William Devasher, Bendini, Lambert & Locke’s head of security, and the Nordic man drive Mitch to an empty lot for a “debriefing,” during which Devasher shows Mitch several photographs of him cheating on his wife. Devasher warns that the FBI might use such photographs to blackmail him, and encourages Mitch to do his best to protect the firm. Wracked with guilt, Mitch confesses his infidelity to Abby, who is heartbroken. Meanwhile, Tammy Hemphill sets up an office with a Xerox machine, where Mitch delivers stolen Morolto files to be copied. He meets with a disgruntled client who complains the firm has been overbilling him for years. Realizing that every inflated bill is an act of mail fraud punishable by a $10,000 fine and 3-5 years in jail, Mitch decides to expose Bendini, Lambert & Locke for overbilling, instead of handing over the Morolto files, to avoid being disbarred. Wearing a wiretap, Mitch meets agent Wayne Tarrance at a racetrack, demands that his brother be released from prison, and that $1.5 million be wired to a numbered bank account in Switzerland. Tarrance balks, reminding Mitch that Ray committed manslaughter. Mitch counters that Ray accidentally killed a man in a bar brawl. When Tarrance threatens him, Mitch reveals he has been recording their conversation. Unable to forgive Mitch, Abby McDeere quits her teaching job and makes plans to visit her parents. Getting word of the separation, Avery Tolar visits her at work. He entices her to join him on his upcoming trip to Grand Cayman. She initially declines, but, aware that Tammy Hemphill is planning to follow Avery in hope of stealing the Morolto files, Abby ultimately decides to go separately to Grand Cayman. Meanwhile, Ray McDeere is released from prison and half the $1.5 million is wired to Mitch’s numbered account. Although two FBI agents trail Ray, intending to arrest him once Mitch delivers the files, Tammy’s estranged husband, Elvis Hemphill, helps Ray evade the agents. Meanwhile, Abby surprises Avery Tolar in Grand Cayman, and sneaks a sleeping aid into his drink. While Avery is unconscious, Abby steals boxes of files and delivers them to Tammy for photocopying. Tammy calls Mitch to warn him the Morolto bills have no dollar amounts, which, according to a note, are contained in Avery Tolar’s computer. In the morning, Avery is awakened by a call from Devasher, who overheard Abby and Tammy discussing the stolen files over the phone. Breaking his allegiance with the firm, Avery lets Abby go, but before she leaves, he reveals the woman who seduced Mitch on the beach was a set-up. In Memphis, Mitch sneaks into Avery’s office to print the Morolto bills. Devasher receives a fax, alerting him that Mitch’s brother was released from prison. Realizing that Mitch must have made a deal with the FBI, Devasher chases him, but Mitch narrowly escapes. He is trailed to Mud Island, a tourist attraction, where he calls Barry Abanks and learns that Ray has arrived in Grand Cayman, as planned, and has boarded a sailboat, loaded with the Morolto files. The Nordic man chases Mitch into an abandoned building, and Devasher follows. Devasher mistakes the Nordic man’s silhouette for Mitch’s, and shoots him dead. Mitch attacks Devasher, and flees with his copies. He seeks out Joey and Tommy Morolto, who are in town for a meeting, and informs them they were overbilled. He persuades the mafia men to release their bills to the FBI, promising that no other confidential information will be exposed. Meanwhile, just before Ray sets sail, he compliments Tammy’s smile, and she decides to join him. Mitch returns home, where agent Wayne Tarrance confronts him for failing to bust the Moroltos. Mitch argues that he busted an equally corrupt organization, while winning his life back. Abby arrives home and forgives Mitch. They pack their things and drive back to Boston, Massachusetts, where Mitch plans to start his own firm. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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At an outdoor dedication ceremony, a tramp is discovered sleeping in the arms of a statue as it is being unveiled before a crowd. He is chased into ... >>

The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.