I was a huge fan of John Grisham‘s The Firm back when it was just a novel, and I even enjoyed the Tom Cruise movie adaptation. But when I heard that AXN was premiering a television series, I was stunned speechless. I wasn’t sure why the entire story needed to be retold in another format. Except that the series, aptly titled The Firm, isn’t just another copy.
There’s something almost old-fashioned about AXN’s new John Grisham series and for once, it isn’t a bad thing. From its slick, retro opening credits through the foot chase scene that sets the story of this new drama, the television sequel to Grisham’s 1991 novel of the same name doesn’t entirely feel like other 21st century legal thrillers.
The series picks up 10 years after McDeere has been in witness protection for taking down the Memphis firm of the original. Why does he leave? A mob boss who became collateral damage from the Memphis meltdown, and who went down the road of revenge for Mitch, is now dead. But, Nothing’s ever the way it seems, there’s always more to the story than meets the eye, as the opening scene reveals: Mitch is running for his life, chased by three nefarious suits through D.C. until Mitch tells Abby the code-red news: It’s happening again. All of this is set against the McDeeres’ determination to live outside of the witness protection program. But it soon becomes clear that the criminals Mitch crossed a decade ago have very sharp memories, and that is going to force changes in the McDeeres’ lives. In the end, Mitch has to make a significant decision about his career and about the cost of being his own boss.
For people those of you who are not familiar with the character, Mitch is an old-school, self-made hero, worked hard to graduate near the top of his class at Harvard — and you can’t help but root for him. And at a time when the procedural format is constantly being reinvented, The Firm‘s straightforward, one-man-against-the-system story feels quite compelling — especially when that one man happens to look like a Tom Ford model and yet comes off as totally relatable. It’s been a while since Hollywood dusted off the trope of the scrappy, Everyman lawyer fighting against Big Corruption. But if you’ve missed more traditional courtroom dramas, you’ll be glad that Mitch is right: It’s happening again. While he is not a carbon copy of Tom Cruise, Actor Josh Lucas does a fine job of reinventing Mitch McDeere, the lawyer Tom Cruise portrayed in the original film, though this time he’s more idealistic than eager that he clearly makes Mitch his own character, someone the audience can enjoy. Mr. Lucas, a film actor best known as Patrick Dempsey’s foil in “Sweet Home Alabama,” brings a riveting competence with a lot of fire to the role of Mitch. Callum Keith Rennie plays Mitch’s brother, Ray, and brings a rough around the edges charm to each scene. Unlike David Strathairn in the film, Mr. Rennie feels like someone who might have actually committed manslaughter! And while I’ve always had a hard time in general watching main characters’ wives whine and complain and try to force their husband not to do what he wants, Molly Parker gives Abby McDeere more of a loving and worried concern for her husband and family. Her initial reluctance is warranted and when she agrees to let Mitch join the new firm, it isn’t aggressive and against her calm nature. Juliette Lewis portrays Tammy, McDeere’s assistant, with charisma and a fun attitude.
The lead producer of The Firm, Lukas Reiter, is a veteran of Law & Order and of the Kelley lawyer shows like The Practice and Boston Legal. In trying to combine Mr. Kelley’s oddball idealism with elements of a crime procedural and long-arc thriller, he’s set himself quite the victory.
AXN’s new legal thriller “The Firm” is so front-loaded for success, that even two hours feel uncomfortably crammed!
With its frantic pace, jumpy cameras and pounding soundtrack right out of a video game loop, The Firm is determined to prove right out of the gate how edgy it is. And while the time-jumping could be a bit confusing, it is a great way to bookend the two hours and prepares viewers for the intensity to come. It succeeds in its endeavors to provide a compelling and fast-paced plot that introduced characters you want to watch. And although Mitch may never want to work for a law firm again when this is all over, I’m excited to see how he and the rest of his family come out on top.
After all, who doesn’t love an underdog fighting for truth and justice?
P.S.: Television never has enough law series to satiate us; so, let’s take a chance on reinvigorated nostalgia. What say?!
So, Don’t forget,
SUNDAY, FEB 19, 9 P.M., EXCLUSIVELY on AXN!!!
Remember, Its happening again!