The Client is an action flick, so the focus is not meant to be on character development or stuff that might end up too deep. And that’s fine, because it’s not a bad suspense/thriller, even though it has its downfalls mainly due to the screenplay. Sarandon and especially Brad Renfro deliver good performances.
Susan plays Regina ‘Reggie’ Love, a lawyer who is accidentally chosen to represent a client who happens to know some secrets about a mob murder. The client is a loud mouthed 11 year old boy and Regina becomes his protector and also a kind of a mother figure. Because, you see, Regina has secrets of her own: a history of drugs and alcohol abuse and grown-up children that don’t want to see her. The role sounds more of a challenge than it actually is; what we get to find out is mostly because of Susan rather than because of the screenplay.
The character has two big elements defining it: first there’s the brave lawyer-woman who can face anything and then there’s the fragile Reggie, a person who has been through a lot and she’s a survivor of her own mistakes. The one we notice the most is the fierce lawyer.
Susan Sarandon usually inspires that respect that brings some kind of seriousness and professional-believability to most of her roles. Here, she’s no different: I totally believe her in the role because I sense this woman is intelligent. Susan makes Reggie powerful, but not rigid, she makes her fun, cool, but also gives her that winning touch that pretty much makes her the hero of the film. Reggie represents justice and, despite her own doubts at times, she succeeds in what she sets up to do.
By doing that, Susan really wins the sympathy of the viewer. I couldn’t put my finger on it at first, but that’s it: I LIKE Reggie and I want her to win; everything. And as you know: what I feel for the character usually influences my perspective on the performance; the emotional side of it counts a lot from where I’m standing. But even considering this great quality, there’s still a feeling of I’m not seeing enough.
Her emotional moment when she confesses about her past and talks about her children is wonderful, that’s a great scene played beautifully by Susan. Unfortunately, except for this scene and a couple of crumbs here and there, the screenplay doesn’t rise to the occasion in giving her the character she deserves. She is great with that she has, she’s tough and brave in the lawyery scenes, she’s vulnerable when it’s needed, but lacks the BIG moment to take the performance to greatness.
Is Sarandon better than her usual self? Probably not, but she’s such a good actress that even her regular good is above others’ performances and definitely above the screenplay. She brings charisma and intelligence to the role and those are bonus points, but when you have just 30-something minutes on screen, in a regular suspense flick, you still get the feeling something’s missing. I don’t know, performances this year become harder and harder to read; but this is a strong for Susan.