Mitch McDeere’s being offered healthy pay packages from various, established law firms. At a lavish hotel, beneath a line of chandeliers, Lamar Quinn warmly greets him. Mitch meets senior partner, Oliver Lambert, and managing partner, Royce McKnight.
Bendini, Lambert and Locke is a small Memphis firm. McKnight slides an envelope across the table. A lawyer worth that offer shouldn’t have to open the envelope. McKnight bribed a clerk in the Harvard Law placement office for the exact amount of the highest offer and then added twenty percent. The firm only sent out one offer.
Mitch’s wife Abby McDeere returns to their shabby flat. The firm from Memphis gave him a great offer. She opens it and is amazed. He says plus a five percent increase the second year. She kisses him. Plus bonuses and a low interest mortgage.
Mitch and Abby learn that nobody in the firm is divorced and there are no bachelors. At a barbecue, Mitch meets other lawyers and Abby meets wives. Kay Quinn has had two babies in fourteen months. The firm encourages children.
Abby tells Mitch the firm doesn’t forbid her from taking a job and they encourage children, because children promote stability. Mitch admits he’s more impressed because he didn’t grow up with wealth like she did.
Mitch gives Abby the new housekeys and they go in. The house has been temporarily furnished for them. Mitch finds the promised Mercedes and they go for a drive.
Mitch arrives early for work. He finds a capacious, grandly-furnished room. He sits at the table caressing the surfaces. He wants to jump start the bar exam work, which no associate has ever failed. He’s soon swamped with several bulging files.
Then, Avery Tolar appears at the door. He tells Mitch about Sonny Capps, who made over $14m last year. He paid less than four percent in taxes and resented every dollar. But, he paid the firm $400,000.
Avery says Mitch should redraft the section on repatriation of offshore funds by the morning. They’re both flying to the Caymans the next day to meet Capps.
Mitch is working late in a diner. Special Agent Wayne Tarrance knows Mitch has been with Bendini, Lambert & Locke eight weeks. He talks about Kozinski, Hodges, Bob Lamm and Alice Krauss. That’s four dead lawyers in under ten years.
Avery tells Capps the new plan’s very aggressive and it defers all his tax liability for years. The future tax value is less than half the present value. Mitch says Avery’s plan meets all Sonny’s needs.
Avery says the firm puts Sonny into deals with other clients who may be sensitive about exposing their relationships to outside attorneys. If Avery’s talking about their friends in Chicago, they don’t make money when Sonny pays the firm fees. The firm does. They make money being in business with Sonny.
As long as they’re making money, they don’t care who does Sonny’s taxes. Sonny tells Mitch he’s a nice guy. If Mitch loses a million dollars for him, he won’t break Mitch’s legs.
Avery’s schedule virtually guarantees Sonny zero tax with zero risk. Sonny’s stock would be the face amount of the instalment. The stock would have no value but it’s offset against income. Sonny defers his tax in full, even with a bankable LC.
Sonny figures the worst is he pays his taxes much, much later. Mitch says they’re closing the loophole the following year. Sonny asks if Mitch knows that for a fact. Later, Mitch asks Avery about Chicago.
Mitch covertly finds many official files in Avery’s villa. Some have Kozinski, Chicago, and Alice Krauss written on them. Avery says the IRS keeps changing the rules so the firm can keep getting rich teaching them. It’s a game, and one which Mitch played very well.
Walking on the beach, Mitch witnesses a couple fighting. The man leaves and the lady’s sprained her ankle. She and Mitch commiserate about the trappings of wealth. She kisses him and they end up having sex.
Mitch visits his brother, Ray, in jail. They catch up, then Mitch explains his recent suspicions. Mitch will need Ray’s help and Ray suggests his historic cellmate Eddie Lomax — an ex-cop, private investigator in Little Rock.
Secretary, Tammy Hemphill, greets Mitch. Lomax says Ray talked about Mitch every day for three years. He says if the guys at the diner were feds, Mitch had better watch out. Lomax will look into it.
Hitmen come to Lomax’s office, Tammy hiding under the desk. The blonde hitman asks why Lomax is asking questions about dead lawyers. He shoots Lomax in the shoulder and asks who hired him, shooting him in the arm.
Lomax fires the gun fixed under the desk, hitting the stocky hitman. Lomax is then shot and killed. The blonde hitman asks if his partner wants to ask the dead man any questions.
Mitch is given a newspaper clipping about Lomax’s death. Mitch should go to the Reflecting Pool during lunch. He meets Denton Voyles with the Department of Justice.
Voyles has been investigating the firm for four years. No lawyer’s ever left there alive. Mitch’s house is likely bugged, phones tapped and office wired. Mitch’s law firm represents the Morolto crime family in Chicago. They set up legitimate businesses with money from drugs, gambling and prostitution. All cash is moved offshore.
Mitch recaps. He’ll steal files and turn them over to the FBI, testify against his colleagues and send them to jail. He should reveal privileged information that violates attorney/ client confidences, get disbarred, then testify in open court against the Mafia. Tarrance says Ray is up for parole. Mitch’s cooperation will be rewarded.
Mitch tells his bosses what happened. He tells Lambert the FBI wanted the secret files and they suggested Hodges and Kozinski were murdered. McKnight calls it harassment. When back alone, Mitch steadies himself against a wall.
Seeing Abby at home, Mitch puts a finger to his lips. He turns up the music and whispers the truth in Abby’s ear. She runs from the house, then wanting to immediately drive back to Boston. Mitch says he must start copying files. There’s no choice.
Tammy delivers a fried egg sandwich, covertly proposing an urgent meeting with Mitch. Mitch learns Tammy part-witnessed Lomax’s shooting. One hitman was stocky and the other had long, blonde hair. When they put Eddie together with Ray, it’ll lead to Mitch.
After having been shown compromising photos of him with the woman on the beach by William DeVasher, firm security, Mitch confesses this to Abby. She snatches the keys and leaves.
Client, Frank Mulholland, tells Mitch he doubts the firm spent thirty three hours last month on his account. The overbilling’s been going on at Bendini, Lambert & Locke for years. When it’s stamped and mailed, it becomes a federal offence. Each instance punishable by a $10,000 fine and three to five years.
Mitch tells Tammy there might be a better way out. Mitch must get the files from the Caymans quickly. Mitch asks Tammy if she has access to wireless recording devices and high speed cameras. Tammy takes photos of the blonde hitman.
Mitch tells Tarrance he wants a million dollars in a numbered Swiss bank account and his brother immediately released. Tarrance quibbles, so Mitch makes it a million and a half.
Angrily, Tarrance says he doesn’t care if Mitch is innocent. He could seriously assault Mitch without violating Mitch’s civil rights. Mitch says he’s Agent Wayne Tarrance. Tarrance says that’s absolutely right. Tammy then calls Tarrance and plays him the damning audio. Mitch can now blackmail Tarrance.
Avery invites Abby to the Caymans. He won’t have time to scuba, though. Abby calls Tammy. She says Avery isn’t going diving and so won’t be out the way so that Mitch can get the files. Tammy wonders how she’s gonna tell Mitch, then says she’s going anyway.
Ray tells Mitch he’s looking at his first sunset in six years. Tarrance asks Mitch about the files. Mitch asks about the money. Tarrance says not till he gets the files. Mitch says Tarrance sends half now. Mitch sends the files once it’s confirmed.
An FBI car follows the bus Ray’s on. At a rest stop, Ray orders steak, eggs, French fries and coffee. Tammy’s ex-husband, Elvis, says goodbye to the waitress and leaves. Ray goes to the bathroom.
When the bus leaves, the FBI find Ray has changed clothes and Elvis is driving them both safely away. Tarrance wants to check the credit cards of every rig that got fuel outside that diner at around the time Ray escaped.
Abby appears in the Caymans and drugs Avery’s Havana Club. He later unbuttons Abby’s dress and passes out. Abby unthinkingly calls Tammy and carries files to her place for copying. Tammy tells Mitch there are no amounts shown. Mitch must get to Avery’s computer in the morning.
William tells Avery somebody he just met has stolen his keys. Avery then tells Abby the firm heard her on the phone. He says she must leave and that the girl on the beach was a setup.
Using Avery’s computer, Mitch checks the Cayman branch of the Royal Bank of Montreal and prints out an account summary.
Using the fuel receipts, Tarrance recognises Hemphill as being Lomax’s secretary. He then learns that a Wrightsville guard sent an unauthorised fax to a law firm in Memphis regarding Ray McDeere.
Mitch puts the account information in his briefcase. Tarrance tells Mitch to leave the building. Mitch puts a chair through an office window and jumps out.
Tarrance tells Mitch about the prison guard. The Moroltos are coming to Memphis that very afternoon. Mitch goes to the Mud Island Museum. Voyles says Mitch is a fugitive and Tarrance should use the Memphis police if necessary. Tarrance wants the Farley’s Catfish Farm red ten ton truck found and APBs issued for Ray and Mitchell McDeere.
Mitch is told Ray’s on the plane and Tammy’s loading the ship and Avery drowned in his bath after the lady left. Mitch asks which lady. Barry Abanks says she slipped Avery a Mickey Finn.
The blonde hitman sees Mitch and starts chasing him. In an empty basement, Mitch tries breaking a window. The blonde hitman sees the broken window, then searches the room. Mitch is hiding in the ceiling.
The blonde hitman takes the briefcase. His image now silhouetted. William shoots the figure twice. Mitch jumps down and beats William down to the floor.
At the Peabody Hotel, an unkempt Mitch gives his name to Joey and Anthony Morolto. He says Bendini, Lambert & Locke has been overbilling their clients. Mitch wants the Moroltos to turn their bills over to the government. It doesn’t waive their rights to full and complete confidentiality in any other area of the attorney/ client relationship.
Mitch says whatever he knows, wherever he goes, he’s bound by the attorney/ client privilege. He’s like a ship carrying a cargo that will never reach any port. As long as Mitch is alive, that ship will always be at sea.
Tarrance arrives at Mitch’s ransacked house. If Tarrance wants the Mafia, he should get their lawyers. Without underhand law firms, the Moroltos can’t launder money.
Mitch says overbilling or mail fraud comes with $10,000 fine and five years in prison for each act. Two hundred and fifty acts of mail fraud is racketeering. That’s minimum 1,250 years in prison and $2.5m in fines — more than they had on Capone.
Mitch says the $750,000 was always for someone else. Mitch has won his life back, throwing Tarrance the damning recording. Abby then appears. Mitch should know that Avery was decent and corrupt and ruined and so unhappy.
Mitch asks if he lost Abby. She says she’s loved him all her life, even before they met. She puts her head on his shoulder and asks how he could lose her. They load up the car and gamble on it reaching Boston.
Starring Tom Cruise. Jeanne Tripplehorn. Gene Hackman. Rated 15. Dir Sydney Pollack. Released in the UK 1993. Runtime 2hrs 34mins