Runaway Jury
2 out of 5 stars
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The latest John Grisham film adaptation is more of the same, frankly: Entertaining and exciting, and yet strangely predictable as well. At the centre is Nick (Cusack), who's chosen as a juror on a high-profile case against a gun manufacturer. The prosecutor (Davison) has hired a slick and sleazy jury expert (Hackman) to help him, while the defence attorney (Hoffman) has a jury consultant (Piven) on the case. As they launch an all-out war for control of the jury, what they don't know is that Nick is actually a plant--a third faction in cahoots with a mysterious woman (Weisz) to throw the trial their way. Unless someone has enough money to change their minds.

It's amazing that filmmakers can figure out a way to make a thin Grisham plot fill a two-hours-plus movie. The film is well enough made to keep our interest, even if it never comes close to delivering on the promise of the material or the cast. Cusack is an engaging central actor, an everyman struggling against the system. We can identify easily with him, although in this case he knows much more that he lets on. Meanwhile, Hoffman and Hackman chew the scenery gleefully--they're the main reason why this film works at all! Hoffman comes out a bit ahead in the competition with a more intriguing character; Hackman seems a little bit bored by it all. And he has a right to be, since the script is diabolically thin! It undercuts any of the plot's intriguing elements with terrible dialog and contrived situations. And most of the characters are mere cardboard cut-outs acting in typical Hollywood ways, right up to the "surprise" twist conclusion. Still, Fleder directs with enough style to keep our attention. It's never boring, even if we never doubt for a second how it will all turn out.

cert 12tbc themes, language, violence 29.Oct.03

dir Gary Fleder
scr Brian Koppelman, David Levien, Rick Cleveland, Matthew Chapman
with John Cusack, Gene Hackman, Dustin Hoffman, Rachel Weisz, Bruce Davison, Jeremy Piven, Bruce McGill, Jennifer Beals, Nora Dunn, Rusty Schwimmer, Luis Guzman, Dylan McDermott
release US 17.Oct.03; UK 16.Jan.04
03/US 2h07

Battle of wits: Hoffman and Hackman.

cusack weisz davison
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send your review to Shadows... Runaway Jury Laurie T, Minneapolis: "I have been a fan of Grisham since his first book. Having read this one, I was interested to see how the movie would be since I liked the actors. This movie follows the basic theme of the book: a juror with ulterior motives for being on the jury, who actually manipulates getting on the jury in the first place by pretending not to want to be on it. However, the movie adds a pretty girl and a bit more interesting, if not timely, reason for this paticular manipulation. It scares me that someone could conceive of this whole plot, of actually buying a verdict; and it is believable enough that I don't doubt some of it may have already occurred. Anyone who has read the book knows that it was the tobacco company on trial -- but I have to say I liked this gun adaptation thing. And the end ... if you are a Grisham fan you won't be disappointed, even though the movie is quite a bit different from the novel." (18.Oct.03)
2003 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall