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So nice to have "The Rainmaker" come along; I was afraid Hollywood would go the whole fall season without giving us something to like. Francis Ford Coppola is back in solid form again in this tale of a dirt-poor lawyer working out of a strip mall who takes on the biggest insurance company in the region when they don't pay for a young man's bone marrow transplant. Matt Damon plays the young lawyer Rudy Baylor with a deferential twang that is endearing and effective; his partner Danny DeVito goes back to his underdog roots as Baylor's assistant, a well-meaning paralegal who has failed the bar exam six times.

Courtroom scenes are so etched into the moviegoing brain that they are hard to separate on first recall, but Coppola's depiction of Rudy Baylor's struggle to get the rules right is sweet without being sappy. And the evil insurance company, headed by a slippery Roy Scheider and defended by Jon Voight (ain't he easy to hate these days?) is so evil that the predictable conclusion is still a nice applaud on a winter afternoon. Solid, funny and well-crafted, "The Rainmaker" is this season's unexpected delight.

With Claire Danes, Danny Glover, Virginia Madsen (whose bit part is great, by the way) and "The Big Chill"s Mary Kay Place.

—Ian Williams

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© Copyright 2002 Ian Williams