Runaway Jury (12A)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner25/11/2003

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 127 mins

Well-acted, slickly-directed entertainment, enlivened considerably by the onscreen spectacle of Hackman vs Hoffman.

In the 1990s it often seemed like you couldn’t move without a John Grisham ‘legal thriller’ coming out, sometimes at the rate of two a year. So it comes as something of a shock to realise that Runaway Jury is the first Grisham movie since The Gingerbread Man in 1998.

As these things go, it’s a pretty good one and you could almost make a case for the argument that “the best Grisham movies are the ones with Gene Hackman” (Runaway Jury, The Firm), were it not for the fact that old Hackers also starred in The Chamber, widely regarded to be the worst of the lot.

Lawyer Brutally Gunned Down

The film opens with a few shots of Dylan McDermott and his lovely wife and family, before he is brutally gunned down in a massacre at the office. (Given that McDermott plays a well-known TV lawyer in the States on The Practice, this has to be seen as something of a casting joke). We then flash-forward a few years and meet Nicholas Easter (John Cusack), a New Orleans slacker who is being shadowed by some Shady Types.

It quickly emerges that he has been called for jury duty on the high profile case brought by McDermott’s widow against the gun manufacturers. Gene Hackman plays Rankin Fitch, the head of a powerful team of ‘jury consultants’, hired by the defence (Bruce Davison) to ensure a jury full of sympathetic jurors – his raison d’etre forms the film’s tag-line: “Some things are too important to be left to juries.”

Meanwhile, Dustin Hoffman plays the principled prosecution lawyer Wendell Rohr, who also has a trainee jury profiler (Jeremy Piven) on his team. Easter slips through Fitch’s net and winds up on the jury, but it quickly emerges that he has a hidden agenda and is plotting something with Mystery Lady Rachel Weisz…

Nice Simple Plot

Once the central twist of what Cusack is up to is revealed, the rest of the plot is pretty easy to predict, though it’s all nicely shot and Fleder keeps things ticking along nicely. Indeed, the only real sticking point is the tedious bit towards the end that pointlessly explains everyone’s motivations.

Unsurprisingly, the biggest joy in the film is to be found in the performances, particularly the sight of Hackman vs Hoffman. Incredibly, despite being roommates in the late 1960s and friends throughout their careers, this is the first time the two men have worked together – the scene where the two square off in the men’s room was reputedly added to capitalise on this fact and it’s one of the best scenes in the movie.

Cusack delivers his usual brand of laid-back excellence and there’s also good support from reliable character actors such as Luis Guzman, Bill Nunn (as jurors) and Bruce McGill as the judge. Weisz is also good and has definite chemistry with Cusack, despite the fact that they aren’t onscreen together all that often.

In short, Runaway Jury is just about as enjoyable as these types of thriller get, with a decent script and great performances that enable you to overlook its predictability. Recommended.

Film Trailer

Runaway Jury (12A)
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Content updated: 19/10/2017 08:03

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