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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 EricDSnider

"Hackman and Hoffman: Mediocre at last!"
3 stars

"Runaway Jury" is the eighth movie to be based on a John Grisham novel, and it's all been done since 1993, when "The Firm" came out. I'd wager that in the ensuing decade, only Shakespeare has been adapted for the big screen more often.

So there they are, side by side. Shakespeare and Grisham, Hollywood's go-to guys when you need pulpy, easily adapted material. "Runaway Jury" is not a particularly good movie, though, and unlike most Shakespeare-based films, I haven't read the source material involved here, so I don't know if the badness was inherent or if it was introduced in the adaptation process.

I do know that while the book was about a tobacco company being sued for millions as various forces pulled the strings on the jury, the movie has changed it so a gun manufacturer is on trial instead. I don't know why the change was made, but it seems wrong-headed. A vast majority of Americans will concur that tobacco is bad and serves no useful purpose in our society, and therefore won't be upset if the plot seems outrageously anti-tobacco. The numbers are a lot more evenly split on guns, though, which means if you make a film that is deliriously anti-gun -- like this one is -- you're bound to put some viewers off. Heck, I'm anti-gun, and I thought, "Wow, this film sure is anti-gun." Do the filmmakers really think matters of gun control are as one-sided as matters of cigarettes? Can Hollywood be as out of touch with America as the ultra-conservatives like to say it is? Hollywood vs. the ultra-conservatives: Who do you root for in THAT battle?

At any rate, it is a gun maker on trial, two years after a disgruntled employee walked into a stock broker's office and wiped out several co-workers. The widow of one of the victims is suing, represented by down-home (but classy) New Orleans lawyer Wendell Rohr (Dustin Hoffman). His opponent, representing the gunmaker, is Durwood Cable (Bruce Davison), but that's irrelevant: His REAL opposition is Rankin Fitch (Gene Hackman), the "jury consultant" Cable has hired to assist in stacking the deck against the plaintiffs before the trial even begins.

Rohr is baffled, even amused, by the idea of jury consultants, but agrees to let an eager young one named Lawrence Green (Jeremy Piven) be his. And thus begin the games. Fitch, paid millions by the evil, evil defense to ensure a victory, finds all the dirt he can on the potential jurors, weeding out the ones he fears he can't manipulate or blackmail. It's all Green can do to keep up.

But then there's a wild card. Nicholas Easter (John Cusack) has been assigned jury duty and is unable to get out of it. Somehow, he makes it onto the jury. And then he's behaving strangely, coordinating events so the judge is buying the jury lunch, instigating disqualifications among his co-jurors, that sort of thing.

There is also a mysterious woman named Marlee (Rachel Weisz) who calls both sides and declares she can turn the jury either way, depending on which lawyer pays her the most money.

The problem with all these forces working to determine the trial's outcome is similar to my previous Hollywood vs. ultra-conservatives dilemma: We don't feel like rooting for any of them. Hackman is delightful to watch, as always -- this is one of the world's most reliable, consistent actors at work -- but his character is slime. Hoffman's lawyer is more likable, but I can't tell you a single thing about his personality; he's a cipher. (Hoffman and Hackman, in their first film together, have one chewy scene of verbal sparring that takes place in a restroom. For a minute, you forget how average the movie is, because these two actors rise above it.) Juror Nicholas Easter? Likable, of course, since he's played by John Cusack. But we don't know which side he wants to win, or why he's doing the odd things he's doing, for most of the film. Ditto the mysterious Marlee.

How can we choose a hero to cheer for when we don't know who the potential heroes are or what they want? The film, competently directed by Gary Fleder ("Don't Say a Word"), is full of intrigue and all, but has nothing to back it up. To borrow a phrase from Hollywood's other favorite writer, it's much ado about nothing.

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originally posted: 10/20/03 13:58:25
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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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