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Overall Rating

Awesome: 4.41%
Worth A Look48.53%
Average: 29.41%
Pretty Bad: 2.94%
Total Crap: 14.71%

5 reviews, 38 user ratings

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Runaway Jury
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by Scott Weinberg

"Same old Grisham stuff salvaged by a stellar cast."
3 stars defines the word "potboiler" as "a term applied derisively to any literary or artistic work...done simply for money and the means of living", while I'd extend that definition to include the phrase "See: any movie or book with the name John Grisham attached".

As long as movies exist there will be a demand for the "courtroom drama" and Hollywood's current King of the Courts is undoubtedly attorney/author/producer John Grisham, a novelist whose output varies from surprisingly challenging to borderline banal...much like the films that are borne from his creations.

For every A Time to Kill or The Firm there is a The Pelican Brief or a The Client, and Grisham's sole foray into 'original screenplay' territory was his story credit on Robert Altman's forgettable The Gingerbread Man. Oddly enough the finest Grisham adaptation (The Rainmaker) is the one that most people didn't bother to see...if you're not counting the wholly disposable The Chamber, which is a wise move indeed.

With very few novels still available for cinematic interpretation, producers set their sights on Grisham's The Runaway Jury...and let's just say it was quite the lengthy and problematic production. Rewrites, cast defections, and a controversial change in the tale's central story combined to leave Gary Fleder's adaptation a little late in its arrival.

Amazing then that the end result is a movie even watchable, let alone half-decent. And, despite Fleder's clumsy and ungainly directorial style, Runaway Jury ends up twice as entertaining as the pre-relase speed bumps would lead one to believe. Due almost exclusively to its massive cast of veteran actors and the generally brisk clip of the adapted screenplay (courtesy of four separate screenwriters), Runaway Jury comes off as one of the better "Grisham Flicks" out there.

Whereas most courtroom dramas focus on the plaintiffs, the defendants, the lawyers or the crimes being judged, Runaway Jury is - not surprisngly - about the jurors. Not in a 12 Angry Men sort of way, but in a "massive conspiracy/con job to deliver the verdict required by the party with the fattest pockets" sort of thing.

John Cusack is the devious juror. Rachel Weisz is his comely accomplice. Gene Hackman represents the ultra-wealthy (and casually evil) gun manufacturer defendants, while an entirely ethical Dustin Hoffman lobbies for the victims of a horrific shooting spree that opens the tale. Bruce McGill is the no-bullshit judge; Jeremy Piven is a nerdly expert on juries; Cliff Curtis, Jennifer Beals, Bill Nunn, Guy Torry and Nora Dunn present a colorful collection of grumpified jurors.

As a showcase for a dozen likeable actors, Runaway Jury works resoundingly well. When you opt to look a bit closer at the oh-so-timely and harried plot'll notice more than a few frayed edges. (That the novel positioned a tobacco company as the heavy while the filmed version uses a firearms manufacturer is only one of the confusing contrivances.) Better still to overlook the myriad plot holes and sketchy character motivations and enjoy Runaway Jury for its strongest assets: a stellar cast parading through a handsome (and only occasionally compelling) narrative.

Certainly not awful and definitely not excellent, "Runaway Jury" should please fans of the Courtroom Genre and those who admire the varied talents of Cusack, Hoffman and (especially) Hackman.

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originally posted: 10/17/03 14:23:57
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User Comments

9/09/07 cb I want the 2 hours of my life the movie stole.. utter crap 1 stars
3/02/07 Matt OK, but with a great cast and intriguing premise it should have been better. 3 stars
1/05/07 Watch This Movie! Not as good as the book but i'm still giving it 4 stars (it was a good book) 4 stars
6/10/06 R.W.Welch Overblown legal drama is hard to take seriously but has a pro veneer to it. Entertaining. 4 stars
7/14/05 Dan good movie 4 stars
12/26/04 goatfarmer Slickly crafted, excels in the genre. Hackman in form. 5 stars
12/16/04 Jay Badly flawed logic. Cusack-"look at facts" Scene ends?? 1 stars
12/07/04 JaseP Liberal Hollywood Anti-Gun Crap 1 stars
12/06/04 Natasha Theobald LOVE Cusack - better than I expected, even 4 stars
12/02/04 Al Guy Exciting movie, but a little over the top. 4 stars
6/02/04 Elizaveta very fun, especially enjoyed Hackman and Cusack 4 stars
5/06/04 Gobsmack Flawed but fun, and the power of the last quarter or so is undeniable. 4 stars
5/01/04 Jiz Really fucking good, if a bit unrealistic. "Fingerprint resistant"? 911 holding? Oh well. 5 stars
4/13/04 Geo Save for the great acting of Rachel Weisz and Gene Hackman, The movie is so-so 3 stars
3/31/04 Phil M. Aficiando 3.5 stars; I like the cast a lot, and the pace was good. flawed but entertaining 4 stars
3/09/04 bsho76 Great beginning, good middle, poor end 3 stars
3/05/04 Boris Not as bad as some make out. Hackman and Hoffman great in their single scene 4 stars
2/13/04 Natalie Stonecipher To gun control what LIFE OF DAVID GALE was to capital punishment. An insult to its cause. 1 stars
1/16/04 William I'm sorry to say but Rachel Weisz is the best thing here. 3 stars
1/13/04 Red Rachel Weisz and Gene Hackman make a bad movie look good.. 2 stars
1/12/04 Greg I had to pay good money in order to be subjected to this propaganda!! 1 stars
1/11/04 R McDowell What a waste of time!! 1 stars
12/31/03 Rick Hollywood hype 1 stars
11/26/03 Dan Weisz and Hackman are the best things here. 3 stars
11/16/03 John Bale Well paced thriller despite illogical surveillance plot that would shame the CIA 4 stars
11/13/03 ownerofdajoint gene hackman steals this movie 4 stars
11/12/03 Chris I'm a republican and I loved it. Don't take it too seroiusly. Great. See it. 5 stars
11/11/03 malcolm not the thriller i hoped for-hackman was awesome, as usual 3 stars
11/07/03 Cameron Slick Implausible Entertainment 4 stars
11/03/03 Suzz Kept waiting for the BIG surprise ending that never came. 3 stars
10/27/03 Norman F. Smith This movie is bombastic propaganda at its worst! 1 stars
10/25/03 canislupis The most obvious case of hollywood propaganda I have ever seen. I want my money back! 1 stars
10/23/03 Glenn Not true to the origional, Hollywood biased anti gun pulp fiction at best . 2 stars
10/21/03 scott I HAVE HUGE TESTIES 4 stars
10/19/03 Agent Sands (previously Mr. Hat) Great cast and good writing. Villains are evil and heroes are excellent. 4 stars
10/18/03 C R Bein' pro-gun don't ruin the fun, it's bein' a cheap pro-bullet bastard that kills me. j/k 4 stars
10/18/03 maxomai Anti-Gun political correctness ruins this for me. 1 stars
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  17-Oct-2003 (PG-13)
  DVD: 17-Feb-2004



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