If stuffy, prestigious law firms were in the business of making thrillers, the results would probably look something like THE FIRM. This is a professional machine of a movie that compresses huge amounts of information into its two and a half hours of screen time. But it's so weighed down by detail, it fails to generate any real suspense. Directed by Sydney Pollack and adapted from John Grisham's best-seller, THE FIRM pleads the case of Mitch McDeere (Tom Cruise), a hungry, hot-shot Harvard Law School grad who's tempted into a lucrative job with an exclusive Memphis legal practice. The drawback? The firm is a front for the mob, and the only way to escape its grip is by dying, either naturally or otherwise. Pollack and his screenwriters have made a heroic, but unsuccessful, attempt to boil Grisham's massive book down into a cinematic thriller. Much of the novel's elaborate set-up has been efficiently tailored for the screen, but the ending--which deviates quite drastically from Grisham's--is more confusing than satisfying. It's like spending months cramming for a bar exam, only to finally be given an I.Q. test instead. Tom Cruise and Jeanne Tripplehorn, as McDeere's wife Abby, give solid if hardly explosive performances, leaving it to the supporting cast to liven things up; standouts are Gene Hackman, as McDeere's criminal mentor; Holly Hunter, as a secretary who helps Mitch out of his jam; and a shaven-headed Ed Harris, as an FBI agent whose temper is quicker than his wit.