Wednesday, July 3, 2013

I GET PAID TO BE SUSPICIOUS WHEN I'VE GOT NOTHING TO BE SUSPICIOUS ABOUT: In recognition of the twentieth anniversary of the release of film adaptation of The Firm—a movie I was so interested in seeing that I inadvertently risked getting fired from my summer job as a residential counselor at geek camp at Johns Hopkins because we didn't realize how long it was and how long it'd take us to get back from the theater in the suburbs where it was playing and so we thought we could make it back before the kids were done with classes at 3pm and we didn't get back until, oh, 3:20 or so— Grantland's Sean Fennessey couldn't help but wonder what happened to Hollywood's interest in legal thrillers:
[T]hey all feature enduring hallmarks: a dogged if flawed litigator trying to make right a terrible wrongdoing; a beleaguered spouse or partner sticking by said litigator; an exciting chase scene or explosion; a goofball sidekick always crackin' wise; and the chance for one big speech.... Much has been made in recent years of the loss of the mid-tier adult drama, a category that the 30-to-49-year-old demographic once came out for in relative droves, to see their (beautiful) peers endure pain and loss in the face of love. For all the hand-wringing in Hollywood lamenting the loss of, say, a contemporary Terms of Endearment at the hands of Iron Man 3, the genres that have truly been shed are the legal thriller and its cousins, the erotic thriller (save the occasional Steven Soderbergh or Danny Boyle homage) and the rarely executed comic thriller. (The political thriller has been granted a reprieve in this post-Argo world.)
[But why did The Firm have to have that big chase scene? Couldn't they have jumped ahead to the Sorvino meet without all that nonsense?]


  1. Duvall10:10 AM

    But why did The Firm have to have that big chase scene
    Why put Tom Cruise in a movie if you aren't going to have Tom Cruise Running?

  2. Benner10:37 AM

    Because there's nothing interesting about the practice of law.

  3. Allegedly, Captain America 2 is a political thriller with superhero draping.

  4. Jessica10:44 AM

    The Debt in 2011 did pretty well for itself as a drama/thriller aimed at adults, but 2013 has certainly been lacking. Although "Now You See Me" is allegedly a "caper film" which might fulfill the "comic thriller" mold.

    I think the problem might be more about visibility than anything.

  5. Joseph Finn10:47 AM

    Off the cuff, I'm going to go with it being the same reason we're suddenly lacking in romantic comedies. Since there hasn't been a great or even very good legal thriller since The Verdict, people simply got tired of the entire genre for a while. It'll eventually come back, just as romantic comedies will come back once someone comes up with a good one and doesn't hire Garry Marshall to direct it.

    That said, for all it's horrid flaws The Firm does still have Wilford Brimley's awesome performance.

  6. Adam B.11:27 AM

    Your denial of the greatness of Michael Clayton (or, for that matter, A Few Good Men) is almost as egregious as your left lane stubbornness.

  7. Joseph Finn11:29 AM

    I'll admit to having not seen Michael Clayton. AFGM is merely decent.

  8. Governor Squid11:38 AM

    Having been treated to 24/7 courtroom circus coverage this week, I can honestly say that "legal thriller" is about the last thing I'd pay money for right now.

  9. Eric J.2:38 PM

    A wise man once told me that any question phrased as "Why do they..." or "Why don't they..." can be answered with "money."

    I would guess that anything set in American courts doesn't sell in foreign markets. Plus, any movie that is mostly people talking raises the question "Do I really need to pay $13 to see this on the big screen, or will it be just as enjoyable at home?" And since studios ask that question much earlier in the process than consumers do, not many movies get made anymore that are mostly people talking. Which means that if I want to write a story that's mostly people talking, I'm probably better off expanding it into a TV series, or contracting it until it's indie sized.

  10. Duvall3:19 PM

    But Michael Clayton isn't a legal thriller, it's a corporate thriller whose protagonist and antagonist are lawyers who don't practice law.

  11. And lawyer shows on TV have dropped dramatically in their prominence in recent years--Good Wife and Suits are the only lawyer-centric shows I can think of (SVU has always been a cop show with some lawyer elements, as opposed to original recipe L&O), and there are a few shows where a character's lawyerness exists as a plot point from time to time but not for much more (HIMYM, Carrie Diaries). CBS's cop shows almost never feature a lawyer.