bill bodkin goes on the run with the NBC series …
NBC’s new legal drama The Firm is equivalent to a high-risk, high-reward athlete — the home run hitter who strikes out a ton, the speedy wide receiver who can break out a big play but has terrible route-running skills, the power forward who can hit countless jump shots but refuses to play defense. The Firm relies on that “the big play,” these flashy and the grandiose sequences, to keep the audience interested. Sadly, during its premiere Sunday, these highlight-reel scenes came at the beginning and end of its two-hour run.
The Firm‘s opening and closing scenes are excellent. The creators of the series took a big risk by opening the show up with a chase sequence — and a good one at that. We’re watching Mitch McDeere (Josh Lucas) running past the Lincoln Memorial, through the famed reflecting pool and then doing a running leap into a flatbed of a pick-up truck. Shot in a bleached-out, highly caffeinated near-Tony Scott style of action photography, this scene really grabs you by the throat.
Sadly, we’ve got to wait nearly two hours for something even remotely as cool, well written or even interesting to happen. And because that opening is so good, the letdown that is the rest of the show is massive. After an excellent action sequence, you’re treated to nearly two hours of run-of-the-mill legal drama. And it’s not even that much of a legal drama — at least in a legal drama in the vein of Law & Order. It’s more a series about how Mitch McDeere, the former hot-shot attorney portrayed by Tom Cruise in the 1993 film, is now an absolute saint. In fact, he might be the most magnanimous man on TV since Ward Cleaver. It’s almost painful to watch him nearly break the law from “keeping a good man from breaking the law.”
And this is the problem with the premiere of The Firm — we spend way too long on McDeere and how he’s trying to fight for the little man that all the interesting stuff about the series — like how the son of the mob boss he put away in the movie is looking to exact revenge — is merely a hint, a suggestion. It’s never given real credence. To be honest, you can’t give away everything in the first show, but do something with these supposedly tense moments. Give us some suspenseful music, build some more tension. And maybe giving the show two hours instead of one is the big problem — instead of focusing on the main plot points, they creators decided to give us more character exposition. Sadly, that exposition was handed poorly.
However, the show is lucky to have a solid actor like Josh Lucas as its star. Even though the script is desperately trying to make his character a saint and some of his dialogue is absolutely atrocious, Lucas really makes you believe in the character. You believe his character is a good guy, you buy into him, you root for him. But the circumstances created by the script are just overkill. We get it already.
Then, after a pretty lackluster two hours, the show, like the mafia, sucks you back in the final minutes. The big conspiracy of series is unveiled and then we’re slammed with a quick “coming soon” preview filled with bullets, bodies and intrigue. Now, you as the viewer, must decide whether or not you want to tune in. It’s like that boom or bust athlete — when they’re good, they are absolute gold, but when they’re bad, they’re atrocious. For this reviewer, I’m going to buy in for a few more episodes. The action, the potential of the conspiracies and the acting of Lucas could really propel this series into something good. But the specter of bad dialogue, uneven dramatic execution and an underdeveloped and largely uninteresting supporting cast could send it into TV oblivion after its initial run.
Only time will tell if The Firm has the chops to stay on the air.