Runaway Jury

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Runaway Jury
Review (5/10)
(By Alex Riviello)

This movie had so much potential. It has an incredible starring cast consisting of John Cusack, Gene Hackman, Dustin Hoffman and Rachel Weisz - and even some great supporting character actors such as Jeremy Piven, Bruce Davidson and Bruce McGill. It's a story based on a best-selling John Grisham book. The director, Gary Fleder, has made some solid movies, including "Don't Say a Word", "Kiss the Girls", and "Things to Do in Denver When You're Dead". So why is this movie such a mess?

John Cusack plays Nick Easter, a juror in a bizarre case. A woman files a civil suit against a major gun manufacturer for selling a gun that was used to kill her husband. His death is shown in the very beginning of the movie in a scene that's supposed to show what a great guy he is and how sad it is that he left his family behind, but it doesn't work at all. They easily could've cut that scene out as it has no emotion in it at all. Anyway, Hoffman plays the widow's attorney, Wendall Rohr. In this case, it's the stereotypical "doing it out of the kindness of his heart" good guy he's playing. Yeah, right. On the other side we have X-Men baddie Bruce Davidson (he was the senator) as lawyer Durwood Cable. But behind the scenes, the evil Fitch (Hackman) lurks. He's the jury consultant for the defense, which basically means he has to find the perfect jury to win the case. This usually means simply determining how a person will vote, but not for Fitch. He uses state of the art surveillance equipment, and digs up each of the potential juror's pasts. He uses tiny cameras inside the courtroom to see people's reactions. He sticks a speaker behind Cable's ear to tell him who to pick, and who to reject. He even has people searching people's homes to see what they can find. Yes, he's an evil guy. The story picks up as you realize that Easter and Marlee (Weisz) are working together, and trying to sell the jury to the highest bidder. This makes for a few interesting scenes as Easter shows he can manipulate the people easily. The tension builds and builds, and of course there is finally a conflict between Rohr and Fitch.

Interestingly enough, this is the first movie Hackman and Hoffman have done together, despite their being best friends when they were young and getting their starts in the movie biz at almost the same time. The clash between them is probably the greatest scene in the film. It's a shame these two weren't given more to do. The dialogue is probably the worst part of this film. A lot of the juror's dialogue is improvised, and you can tell, because it's sloppy. Practically all of the jokes in the movie fall flat. It's embarrassing to have this kind of major talent in a movie, and not giving them anything to go with.

All in all, Runaway Jury is not a good movie, by any stretch of the imagination. It's not horrible, but it's simply a typical Hollywood movie. In other words, it has lots of sappy moments, a happy ending and the big twist at the end, which in this case doesn't work at all. I've never read the book, but I'm sure it can't be this bad. If you're in a real mood for a courtroom drama this weekend, you might want to hit the video store.

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