The Gingerbread Man (1997)
Robert Altman directed this John Grisham tale that begins at a party where Savannah attorney Rick Magruder (Kenneth Branagh) celebrates his successful defense of a man who shot a local cop. The partygoers include his ex-wife Leeanne (Famke Janssen), the mother of his two children; his law partner Lois Harlan (Daryl Hannah); and caterer Mallory Doss (Embeth Davidtz). After Mallory finds her car stolen, Rick gives her a ride home where things turn sexual. Attracted to Mallory, he learns that her crazed father Dixon Doss (Robert Duvall) has been threatening her. Getting too closely involved with this woman he hardly knows, Rick has the police round up her unstable father, and he next subpoenas her ex-husband Pete (Tom Berenger) to testify against Dixon, who is institutionalized. The crazed Dixon manages to escape from the asylum, intent on revenge against all his betrayers and enemies. As a potent hurricane blows into Savannah, Mallory's car is torched, and Rick receives threats. Believing his children are in danger, Rick removes them from school, prompting a warrant for his arrest. When his children disappear, Rich goes on the counterattack against Dixon. Chinese cinematographer Changwei Gu (of Chen Kaige's Farewell My Concubine and Zhang Yimou's Ju Dou) captured the soaked Savannah sites. The script is not an adaptation from a John Grisham novel; Grisham wrote it as an original screenplay just before the success of The Firm (1993), and it was acquired by producer Jeremy Tannenbaum. After Island Pictures came into the project at $1.4 million, Grisham returned for rewrites. Altman did even more drafts, so the pseudonym Al Hayes was created as the scripting credit. When Polygram suggested to Altman that the electronic score could be replaced with a traditional score, Altman had friends call reporters to say he had been dismissed. Polygram began re-editing the $25 million movie, but their edit didn't test much better than Altman's version, so they handed the reins back to Altman. … More
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Critic Reviews for The Gingerbread Man
Robert Altman the up-and- down director meets John Grisham the constant mediocrity. Just where, in our hypothetical picture, should we place that unlikely scene?
Altman had a fine time composing difficult shots, through screens, bushes and sheets of rain, and Chungwei's images, sometimes delicate, sometimes harsh, stick with you long after you've forgotten their context.
If you like movies more than you do John Grisham, you can leave the story behind and listen to the filmmaking master class that Altman conducts on the screen.
Unless one counts a few running gibes against lawyers that can easily be imagined coming from Grisham, Altman basically chooses to treat this hackneyed story straight.
With unexpected success, Robert Altman plays a John Grisham mystery in a seductive new key.
That it seems a step up from sensationalism is because Grisham has a sure sense of time and place, and Altman and his actors invest the material with a kind of lurid sincerity.
An underrated atmospheric thriller from Robert Altman
Altman and his great cast make the most of the material and deliver a solid movie.
The unlikely pairing of John Grisham and Robert Altman proves rewarding for both partners.
Altman has done something much better: he took what could have been a generic movie, and by investing artistry and effort, he made it into something more.
It's a pity the director couldn't manage to make sense of the plot, which is like a puzzle with too many missing pieces.
There oughtta be a law against any more of John Grisham's tales of lust, deceit and murder involving lawyers.
It's Branagh that holds this film together, and he does well, and it's a taut thriller, but one that lacks the panache of an Altman film.
Audience Reviews for The Gingerbread Man
Altman even makes this look good. Plus the setting of Savannah helps. A great little performance from Robert Downey Jr. as well.More
There is so much wrong with "The Gingerbread Man" that it's no wonder Robert Altman was threatening to disown the film upon it's release. After a bitter fight with Universal over, well, the entire outcome of the film, Altman's sensibilities as a director are scarcely recognizable. Still, the film wouldn't have even been that great if Altman had complete control. The story, from John Grisham, is uninteresting and just plain bizarre. The acting is ham fisted and all those cheesy southern accents don't help, either. From the lame title, to the outlandish yet strangely pedestrian narrative, "The Gingerbread Man" is one of Altman's worst films. But then again, can you even call this a Robert Altman film?More
Altman concocts what may have been a good thriller, but forgets to add the thrills. This is certainly not his genre. Why show us somebody trying to make a phone call to someone and building it up so much when we know that person hasn't got there phone? Especially when it cuts back to the shot of the phone more than once. The cast are great and really manage to salvage what is quite an interesting script until the final twist.More
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