This double feature represents that old saying “keep the kid in the movie…because the kid is the movie. That’s not altogether true for Witness and The Client, both big box office successes that deal with protecting a child who becomes a target for elimination because he knows too much.
The Client (1994) is based on John Grisham’s bestseller. Brad Renfro plays a mature beyond his years teen caught between an overly ambitious U.S. attorney (Tommy Lee Jones) and some gangsters who killed a high-ranking Louisiana politician. Susan Sarandon plays Reggie Love, an ex-alcoholic attorney on the comeback trail. She is the character who must keep young Renfro from being run over by the competing forces, both, it seems, intent on destroying him as well as his moonbeam of a mom in order to win the battle. All three main characters are strong, as is the plot, but Renfro is the draw here. He plays a tough, uncannily wise country bumpkin. Sarandon was nominated for an Academy Award for “Best Actress.” Anthony LaPaglia, Ossie Davis and William H. Macy also appear in the film. Joel Schumacher directed.
Witness (1985) cleaned up in the awards department. I remember loving the movie. My worry, when I sat down to watch it again these many years later, was that it wouldn’t hold up. I needn’t have worried. Director Peter Weir created a nearly timeless film that delivers a sit-on-the-edge-of-your seat plot and sets it against both a rarely used social environment and a strikingly visual landscape. A young Amish kid witnesses the brutal killing of a cop in the restroom of a train station. Because of corruption in the police department, neither the young witness (Lucas Haas) nor his police protector Harrison Ford, are safe — anywhere. They retreat, Ford reluctantly, to an Amish community in Pennsylvania, where we meet an attractive Amish woman played by Kelly McGillis and other members of the boy’s family. We also see Alexander Godunov, Patti LuPone and the first Hollywood appearance of Viggo Mortensen. Danny Glover plays a significant role and if you pay attention you’ll get a glimpse of James Earl Jones.
As far as what to have with your double feature, maybe this is an alcohol free night. The Client takes you back and forth from New Orleans to Memphis, but despite this two-hour plus film, time goes quickly. Witness moves a little more slowly and lusciously. But when you are in Amish country, you have to be content with sipping lemonade on the porch swing.