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Lawyers in the Movies

F [Category A]

A Few Good Men
The Firm
First Monday in October
The Fortune Cookie
From the Hip

The Firm (1993)

Directed by Sydney Pollack, based on the novel by John Grisham, this film again presents a talented young lawyer who is sucked into big firm and is shocked, shocked to discover that the firm is connected to some unsavory clients. The movie, starring Tom Cruise, Gene Hackman, Hal Holbrook, and Jeanne Tripplehorn, presents the wooing of young law school graduates very well: you will have all the money and perks you want if you serve the Mob/the Devil/tobacco companies. The book was quite strong, but the movie strays from the book --- changing the ending, for example -- and that's a shame.

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First Monday in October (1981)

Directed by Ronald Neame, based on the play by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee, the film focuses on the first female appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court. Starring Jill Clayburgh and Walter Mattthau, the acting is terrific, and so is the humor, but as there are now two women on the High Court, it's hard to relate to the shock of a woman on the bench, but the discussion of legal issues is strong.

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The Fortune Cookie (1966)

I haven't seen this movie, but it comes recommended. It apparently tells the story of a crooked lawyer who persuades his brother-in-law, a TV cameraman injured while covering a football game, to exaggerate his injuries to collect extra insurance money. Written and directed by Billy Wilder, the cast includes Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau, who won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for this role.

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From the Hip (1987)

I have not seen this film, but it sounds like a useful addition to the "young ambitious attorney, after manipulating the scandal-loving media for personal gain, must re-examine himself" genre. Judd Nelson stars in this comedy/dramedy as the ambitious lawyer who joins a buttoned-up Boston law firm, and is quickly promoted to partner (let's overlook reality here) thanks to his handling of a headline-grabbing case. But the cases only get harder. When defending a college professor accused of murder, our hero starts to have doubts.

As I have not yet seen this film, I cannot comment on its portrayal of legal ethics. A lawyer cannot suborn perjury or present false evidence to the court. But I hope the film does not suggest that if your client is guilty, he should not be represented. Guilty clients are the ones who need lawyers most! It's like saying that sinners should be barred from church. Anyway, this might be more of a comedy, and if so, please ignore my earnest concern, which is an opinion unclouded by facts. I do hope that this young attorney had someone (someone decent) to turn to with his ethical dilemmas, and that the film shows that discussion. Some law firms have ethics officers nowadays.

The film stars Judd Nelson, Elizabeth Perkins (the girlfriend), John Hurt (the defendant), Darren McGavin, and Ray Walston. It was directed and written by Bob Clark, based on the story by David E. Kelley, who was hired by TV producer Steven Bochco to write for L.A. Law in 1986 after Bocho read the script.

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Fury (1936)

Directed by Fritz Lang, based on the story "Mob Rule" by Norman Krasna, this film is worth watching for Spencer Tracy's acting alone. He portrays a decent man who is slowly transformed into a monster when he is wrongly arrested for kidnapping. He is determined to seek revenge.

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