Review by: Jack Foley | Rating:
DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Director's audio commentary; Deleted
scenes with optional commentary; Selected scene narration; 7 featurettes;
Scene access; Interactive menu.
GUN manufacturers replace tobacco chiefs in this big screen interpretation
of John Grishams acclaimed novel, The Runaway Jury, which
thrives on its ability to exist in a moral grey zone for most
of the time.
But while the change of defendant may baffle die-hard fans of
the book, there is plenty to enjoy in this taut courtroom potboiler,
which places jury manipulation as the focal point for the drama,
rather than the traditional courtroom fireworks between lawyers
Director, Gary Fleder, quite literally rolls out the big guns
to ensure that his tale hooks viewers from the start, with the
heavyweight likes of Gene Hackman, Dustin Hoffman, John Cusack
and Rachel Weisz primed to square off against each other.
When a major gun manufacturer is put on the stand for the death
of a businessman, civil rights lawyer, Wendell Rohr (Hoffman),
sees it as an excellent opportunity for a precedent-setting victory.
But he quickly finds himself pitted against Hackmans unscrupulous
jury consultant, Rankin Fitch, who will stop at nothing to secure
a verdict in his clients favour, as well as a mysterious
jury member (Cusack) and a woman on the outside (Weisz), who offer
to manipulate the panel for their own financial gain.
The ensuing cat-and-mouse game proves to be a cut-throat affair,
with all three sides forced to resort to increasingly desperate
measures to get what they want, before the inevitable make or
For the most part, Fleders film is a gripping affair, buoyed
by some terrific performances from its top-notch cast.
The various moral conundrums it throws up provide plenty for
audiences to chew over, while the numerous twists are well-hidden
for anyone who hasnt read the novel.
Its just a shame that, in the final analysis, the film
doesnt have the courage to see things through, watering
things down somewhat with a very contrived conclusion, and neatly
side-stepping the big issue - of gun control - in favour of one,
But while the more discerning viewer may feel deprived of a really
great movie, there is still plenty of mileage to be gained from
the quality of the performances, and the various manipulations
and blackmails which take place along the way.
Needless to say, its Grisham veteran, Hackman, who steals
the show, revelling in the opportunity of creating another despicable
character (much like his turn in The Firm), who spews lines such
as trials are too important to be decided by juries
with gloriously carefree abandon.
Whether its playing hardball with Weiszs feisty go-between,
or trading verbal blows with Hoffmans honourable lawyer
in a courtroom toilet, the actor appears to be having a blast,
and provides an added spark to an already electric movie.
Hoffman, too, is typically strong, though more restrained than
usual (allowing Hackman to hog the limelight), while Cusack brings
his trademark charm and charisma to virtually every scene that
Fleder, too, deserves credit for playing his cards close to his
chest for the majority of the movie, so that it avoids the pitfalls
of becoming as manipulative as its characters, thereby allowing
viewers to form their own opinions and guess at the motives of
And there are a number of well-staged set-pieces to ensure that
proceedings dont become too bogged down in legal wrangling.
Its just that Hollywoods inability to credit viewers
with too much intelligence gives way to something of a spoon-fed
ending, and threatens to undermine the overall power of the piece
in the process.
Enter with this in mind, though, and this is still an efficient,
sometimes spectacular, legal drama, which marks a welcome return
to form for Grisham, and another sublime turn from Hackman.