The Runaway Jury


Directed by: Gary Fleder
Written by:Brian Koppelman, David Levien, Rick Cleveland, Matthew Chapman
Starring: John Cusack, Gene Hackman, Dustin Hoffman, Rachel Weisz, Bruce Davison, Bruce McGill
Released: October 30, 2003
Grade: A-

It’s been a while since we’ve seen him but he’s back in fine form.  The Runaway Jury is the quintessential John Grisham – a little hard to swallow but entertaining nevertheless.  Hollywood became fascinated with the talented author in the mid 90s and churned out six screen adaptations of his novels over just a four year span.  To refresh your memories those films were The Firm, The Pelican Brief, The Client, The Chamber, A Time To Kill and The Rainmaker.

This time around, an American gun company is being put on trial.  A stockbroker and ten co-workers were shot dead in an office by a disgruntled day-trader.  The gun was obtained off the black market but evidence suggested the gun company was fully aware of these illegal sales but looked the other way.  The widow of the broker is now suing the company to set a precedent that will change gun laws forever.

Gun lobbyists know what’s at stake and have hired master jury selector Rankin Fitch (Hackman) to select and buy the jury.  In his own words “some trials are too important to be left to juries.”  Fitch and his team have analysed every potential jury member and uncovered deep secrets from their past.  This will enable him to apply the pressure to ensure the verdict swings his way.  Fitch will be rewarded to the sum of 20 million dollars.

Unfortunately, he has underestimated jury member number 9.  Nicholas Easter (Cusack) also plans on taking control of the jury for financial gain.  As he sits quietly in the jurors’ box, his girlfriend Marlee (Weisz) is beginning her negotiations with Fitch (Hackman) and chief prosecutor Wendell Rohr (Hoffman).  The man who offers the highest price, will get the verdict.  Rohr is refusing on ethical principal and Fitch is refusing on confident arrogance but as the case comes to a close, both realise what’s at stake.  Perhaps this decision really is too important to be left to a simple jury?

The Runaway Jury is an engrossing story played out by quality actors.  As Rankin Fitch, Hackman is the obvious “bad guy” and you literally sit their willing for him to get what’s coming to him.  It’s a precision performance which is typical Hackman and curiously, very reminiscent of his role as Avery Tolar is the very first Grisham film, The Firm.  I’m a big John Cusack fan so will naturally utter my support for another great character choice on his behalf.  Let’s not forget Dustin Hoffman either, who after a lean spell, churns out his finest since 1997’s Wag The Dog.  Admittedly, all the cast have been typecast based on their previous screen personas but I’m not complaining.

Not often will I sit through a two hour movie without a glance at my watch or a look of boredom.  I guess that comes from seeing three to four movies each week.  When you have high benchmarks set, it’s very hard to give your unrelenting concentration to a film which comes in below par.  I’m not a lawyer but I love good legal tale and my attention did not waver throughout The Runaway Jury.  Welcome back Mr. Grisham.