Wouldn’t this be cool: At the time this was made, John Grisham had it in his contract that he could veto any casting choice. This was only his fourth novel, and already he had that sort of clout. He exercised it by insisting that no child actor be cast in the central role of Mark Sway, the young man who witnesses the suicide of a Mob lawyer and learns, literally, where the body is buried. As a result, a hot-shot D.A. (Tommy Lee Jones, doing a great job) wants his testimony and is willing to break a lot of rules to get it, and the Mob wants him dead. The kid is smart enough to realize he needs a lawyer, who he finds in Reggie Love (Susan Sarandon), a beginner who is in way over her head, but through sheer gumption is able to run rings around all the heavy hitters. We all like stories of underdogs, don’t we? Of the weak and powerless standing up to the smug and powerful? We get a lot of that here, and it’s all very satisfying. There are some scenes you just want to watch over and over, pump your fist, and shout “Yes!!!!” The ending gets to be a bit unbelievable, but not enough that it soured me on the movie. Lee and I really love this film.
Sad to say, Brad Renfro, the kid who does such a great job here at age twelve, died of a drug overdose thirteen years later.