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With: Kenneth Branagh, Embeth Davidtz, Robert Downey, Jr.; Daryl Hannah, Tom Berenger, Famke Janssen, Robert Duvall
Written by: Al Hayes, based on a story by John Grisham
Directed by: Robert Altman
MPAA Rating: R for some sexuality, violence and language
Running Time: 115
Date: 01/23/1998
IMDB

The Gingerbread Man (1998)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

In the Name of the Lawyer

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Someday, historians are going to look back and laugh at us for watching so many lawyer movies, most of them by John Grisham. In most Grisham movies, a squeaky clean young lawyer learns dirty secrets that the system doesn't want them to know. But The Gingerbread Man, for once, is different. Based on an original story by Grisham, it's his first lawyer character that's flawed. Kenneth Branagh plays Rick Magruder, a Savannah, Georgia lawyer who is vain, drinks too much, and has a thing for cheap women. Branagh plays the character with a wild Southern accent and a fearless abandon. I was worried that he would be too over the top, but he keeps himself in check. It's a great performance. Magruder gets involved with a young woman, Mallory Doss (Embeth Davidtz) who is being stalked by her father Dixon Doss (Robert Duvall), a member of a weird cult. Magruder, for once, tries to do the right thing, but gets tangled in a terror story. "The Gingerbread Man" is directed by an American master, Robert Altman, who gives the movie an unconventional spin. He doesn't follow standard rules, like telegraphing the suspenseful moments, or using music to warn us of trouble. His direction has an easy, detached, watchful style that makes the movie all the more fascinating. Unfortunately, the movie is only as good as its story, and Grisham is no Dickens. But Altman and his great cast make the most of the material and deliver a solid movie. (Robert Downey Jr. and Daryl Hannah also star.)