January 9th, 2012
04:45 PM ET
Editor's Note: The post below contains spoilers for the January 8 premiere of "The Firm."
When John Grisham's legal thriller "The Firm" was released in 1991, the concept for an action-packed plot set in a lawyer's world was fairly new.
The book follows a young lawyer named Mitch McDeere, who becomes a whistle-blower for the FBI on the activities of his law firm, which is a front for the Chicago mob. "The Firm" brought Grisham so much recognition that it was adapted into a successful 1993 movie of the same name starring Tom Cruise and Gene Hackman.
But it's only now, 20 years after the book was published, that we're getting the TV version of the tale.
On Sunday, NBC unveiled its two-hour premiere of "The Firm," which picks up McDeere's story a decade after the events in the book and movie. Given the swarm of legal dramas we’ve had in the past 20 years, including the more recent "Damages" and "The Good Wife," why the producers decided to go for this already-done idea is beyond me.
In the first scene we see a frantic Mitch (Josh Lucas) calling his wife Abby (Molly Parker) to tell her that "it's happening again," which can only mean that it has something to do with a law firm.
We then flashback to six weeks earlier, when Mitch is warned by his U.S. Marshal officer not to come out of hiding just yet because the son of Chicago mob boss Morolto could be planning his revenge.
You see, even though Mitch helped take down his old firm Bendini, Lambert and Locke, Morolto was subsequently arrested. Since the mob never forgets, a death sentence is placed on Mitch's family, forcing him and his wife Abby to seek refuge in the federal witness protection program.
Ten years later, after they receive news of Morolto's death in jail, the McDeeres decide they can stop running and settle down, a relief for their ten-year-old daughter Claire (Natasha Calis). Mitch now also has his own law firm in Washington D.C. with his brother Ray (Callum Keith Rennie), who was previously in jail for manslaughter and was released at the end of the book/movie.
Tammy Hemphill (Juliette Lewis), who was instrumental in bringing down Bendini, Lambert and Locke, is now Mitch's secretary.
The "good and talented" Mitch creates a name for himself in the criminal law circles, attracting the attention of the prestigious law firm Kinross & Clark. Mitch initially refuses the opportunity to help create a criminal division there, but when a major settlement falls through and his firm is on the brink of closing, he accepts the position.
Mitch's experience has made him a little wiser, so he sets a condition that he will continue to work through his own firm in conjunction with Kinross & Clark, with the latter having a 50 percent share in the cases.
The managing partner Alex Clark (Tricia Helfer) reluctantly agrees, and we soon learn that the partners of Kinross & Clark have a sinister plan in mind for one of Mitch's cases. That, and the Chicago mob has tracked down Mitch and his family in D.C. Talk about bad luck and déjà vu mixed together.
At the end of premiere, it becomes obvious that the series will focus on a number of sub-plots: Mitch working on criminal cases with Ray and Tammy; the McDeere family constantly looking over their shoulder; and the Chicago mob plotting to kill the McDeeres. All of this under the umbrella of the main plot, in which Mitch finds himself in the very same situation with Kinross & Clark as he did 10 years ago, and his struggles to stay afloat while digging for the truth.
That sense of been-there-done-that and the generic criminal cases wind up being "The Firm's" greatest downfall - they don't bring anything new to the table. As a result, the show is not only competing for viewers with all the other excellent legal dramas out there, but also with the book and movie versions of the McDeere story.
While Lucas does a decent job playing Mitch, to me he doesn’t show the same edge and ambition that Tom Cruise brought to the character. Age and experience could have mellowed the hotshot lawyer, but that go-getter personality is still a big part of Mitch's character. Meanwhile, Molly Parker's Abby has been designated as the cheerleader who stands by her husband no matter what, which is a switch from the book and movie Abby who had a bigger role to play.
The one saving grace is that Grisham is one of the executive producers for the show, and since this is his baby, he should maintain the feel of the book. Nonetheless, I highly recommend reading the book and watching the movie beforehand to prevent a lot of head-scratching moments.
At this point, "The Firm" needs to take advantage of its Grisham association to deliver something different for law show fanatics and familiar for fans to gain a strong following.
Did you catch "The Firm's" premiere? Do you think it adds to the book and movie? What did you think?
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