The Gingerbread Man [DVD] 
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After having a one-night stand with waitress Mallory Doss (Embeth Davidtz), attorney Rick Magruder (Kenneth Branagh) discovers that she is being stalked by her cult leader father, Dixon (Robert Duvall). Magruder has Dixon arrested and put on trial, but, as events take a disastrous turn, the lawyer begins to question whether Mallory has been telling him the whole truth... Based on a novel by courtroom heavyweight John Grisham.
When released in 1997, The Gingerbread Man was the only John Grisham movie that did not use one of the popular novelist's bestsellers as its inspiration. Rather, it's based on an original screenplay by Grisham that displays the author's familiar flair for Southern characters and settings within a labyrinthine plot propelled by his trademark narrative twists and turns. Sporting a spot-on Georgian accent, Kenneth Branagh plays a Savannah attorney who comes to the assistance of a troubled woman (Embeth Davidtz) and finds himself enmeshed in a scenario involving the woman's father (Robert Duvall) that grows increasingly complex and dangerous, where nothing, of course, is really as it seems. It's a totally absorbing movie made in the modern film noir tradition; what's most interesting here (and most underrated by critics at the time) is the combination of Grisham's mainstream mystery and the offbeat style of maverick director Robert Altman. Despite a battle with executives that nearly caused Altman to disown the film, The Gingerbread Man demonstrates the director's skill in bringing a fresh, characteristically offbeat approach to conventional material, especially in the use of a threatening hurricane to hold the plot in a state of dangerous urgency. Unfortunately overlooked during its theatrical release, this intelligent thriller provides a fine double bill with Francis Coppola's film of Grisham's The Rainmaker. --Jeff Shannon
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Top Customer Reviews
opposite. That was a movie with great ambitions, that - while good -
fell just short. This is a movie of much lesser aim (just a good tense
thriller/mystery), that's much more successful on it's own terms.
The acting is very good throughout. It may be my favorite Kenneth
Branagh performance; understated and subtle. And a number of the scenes
really are tense. Altman finds some clever ways to create suspense with
sound and image that aren't just retreads of what we've seen before.
Admittedly, some of the twists are pretty creaky and predictable, the
logic sometimes questionable, and the moral POV of the film is a bit
confusing. But this still blows most modern Hollywood thrillers out of the
If your a Robert Altman fan don't expect a film like Short Cuts, The Player, The Long Goodbye or McCabe and Mrs Miller, this film is played fast and in a more usual Hollywood way, but that suits the Grisham story. The film will never be regarded as a classic but it's well worth a watch for the cast, the director and the Grisham plot.
If you're a fan of Kenneth Branagh or Robert Downey Jr then you should probably buy this.
The first half-hour is interesting, with Altman setting up an intriguing mystery with promising characters, but somewhere along the line Altman loses it. The plot veers into cliche, with limp attempts at suspense and the characters never live up to their promise (the Davidtz/Branagh pairing goes down the drain quickly), and the climax is thoroughly far from thrilling.
As their characters collapse, the usually talented cast are uninspiring. Duvall, Hannah and Janssen are wasted in severely underwritten roles. In the bigger parts, Downey Jr seems on autopilot (its a role he's played before) and Branagh is adequate, though charmless. It is only Davidtz who rises above the lacklustre material.
Altman, meanwhile, creates a dark atmosphere, making good use of a wild storm, but little else. His renowned talent for working with actors is certainly not evident here.
Overall, 'The Gingerbread Man' is a failure. Lifeless performances and direction don't help a poorly plotted script. Among Altman's worst pictures.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I agree with the general consensus of the 2 star reviewers. That said, my reason for comment is to offer a word of caution
to buyers considering the film included in the 3... Read more
I have read most of John Grisham's books and subsequently enjoyed watching the film based on each individual book. Read morePublished on 8 Feb. 2014 by president
My only recollection of this film is near the beginning, I seem to recall a waitress at a party
carefully taking a glass which had been drunken out of by one of the main... Read more
After reading all of his books and a few of the films based on books, I felt a bit let down by this one! did not find it as thrilling as I had expected!Published on 27 Nov. 2011 by Mrs. C. J. Shirt