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Awesome: 4.41%
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5 reviews, 38 user ratings

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Runaway Jury
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by Robert Flaxman

"Stick with what works, I guess."
4 stars

It's very difficult to criticize a movie like Runaway Jury. How can you? It doesn't aspire to be high art or a masterpiece of technique. It doesn't seek to deliver incredible insight. I mean, it's an adaptation of a John Grisham novel - an author known for "legal thrillers" but also for pretty much sticking to formula.

Which is, by and large, what Runaway Jury does - stick to formula. There's a "good side" and a "bad side" and central characters who have no clear side and/or could go either way, and the movie is primarily about the struggle.

Nick Easter (John Cusack) is picked for jury duty in a big case in Louisiana - the widow of a man who was gunned down by a disgruntled day trader is suing the gun manufacturer for liability. She is represented by Wendell Rohr (Dustin Hoffman), a well-known Southern lawyer. Meanwhile, the defense has retained Rankin Fitch (Gene Hackman), famous for his ability to control juries and deliver specific verdicts. Fitch's preparations to buy the jury are affected by the appearance of Marlee (Rachel Weisz), who is using Easter as an insider to affect the jury and offering the verdict to both sides - for a price of ten million dollars.

From there the movie is more or less a back-and-forth between Marlee and Easter and Fitch, as Fitch tries to find out everything he can about the mysterious jury spinners in time to negotiate the price down (or perhaps erase it altogether), and Easter works on endearing himself to the rest of the jury. (Hoffman does not play as important a role as it seems like he should. Most likely the Rohr character had a lot more time in the book and it was sliced, because something always has to be.)

Runaway Jury is actually better at its transition from the book than many of the other recent movies based on novels, in that it doesn't contain many scenes that are clearly left over from a subplot that was jettisoned in the transition to the screen. (A scene in which Rohr assures his client that they can win the case is one of the few.) The fairly effective transition is more impressive considering that Grisham's original book, written in the mid-90s, concerns a suit against the tobacco industry. Since The Insider and numerous real-life successes have not only made the concept of a "landmark verdict" outdated but rendered the entire premise stale, the plot was switched to concern the gun industry. It could easily have been a clumsy transition, but it actually works fairly well - certainly better than it needs to.

Of course, there are numerous contrivances (if not outright plot holes) floating around - but it's hard not to expect those from this type of movie. One of the highest compliments that can be paid is to say that few of the problems are so obvious during the film as to really hamper the enjoyment of it. There are a couple, sure, and the whole affair is incredibly over-the-top, but it's never in too bad a way. (Except for an early scene where Weisz says to Cusack, "I think you have the wrong apartment," while holding a bat, and then they kiss. I always hate those scenes. Why do they pretend not to know each other? Real people wouldn't do this; it's just a clumsy way to insert faux-suspense, and it never works.)

This is helped by a game cast. Cusack and Weisz have decent chemistry when they need to (which is not often after the first half-hour), Hoffman does well as the crusading attorney for the plaintiff, and Hackman is enjoyably over-the-top as the scenery-chewing jury consultant. I was also particularly fond of Jeremy Piven's turn as the jury consultant for the plaintiff, who doesn't have nearly enough screen time.

If you're looking for a cinematic classic, it should be obvious that Runaway Jury isn't going to do much to satisfy your needs. As a two-hour diversionary tactic, though, it works just fine. The twists are largely predictable but still enjoyable, and the larger-than-life nature of the proceedings keeps everything humming along over the speed bumps of plot contrivance.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=8258&reviewer=385
originally posted: 10/11/04 03:40:51
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User Comments

9/09/07 cb I want the 2 hours of my life the movie stole.. utter crap 1 stars
3/01/07 Matt OK, but with a great cast and intriguing premise it should have been better. 3 stars
1/05/07 Watch This Movie! Not as good as the book but i'm still giving it 4 stars (it was a good book) 4 stars
6/10/06 R.W.Welch Overblown legal drama is hard to take seriously but has a pro veneer to it. Entertaining. 4 stars
7/13/05 Dan good movie 4 stars
12/25/04 goatfarmer Slickly crafted, excels in the genre. Hackman in form. 5 stars
12/15/04 Jay Badly flawed logic. Cusack-"look at facts" Scene ends?? 1 stars
12/07/04 JaseP Liberal Hollywood Anti-Gun Crap 1 stars
12/05/04 Natasha Theobald LOVE Cusack - better than I expected, even 4 stars
12/01/04 Al Guy Exciting movie, but a little over the top. 4 stars
6/02/04 Elizaveta very fun, especially enjoyed Hackman and Cusack 4 stars
5/05/04 Gobsmack Flawed but fun, and the power of the last quarter or so is undeniable. 4 stars
4/30/04 Jiz Really fucking good, if a bit unrealistic. "Fingerprint resistant"? 911 holding? Oh well. 5 stars
4/12/04 Geo Save for the great acting of Rachel Weisz and Gene Hackman, The movie is so-so 3 stars
3/31/04 Phil M. Aficiando 3.5 stars; I like the cast a lot, and the pace was good. flawed but entertaining 4 stars
3/08/04 bsho76 Great beginning, good middle, poor end 3 stars
3/05/04 Boris Not as bad as some make out. Hackman and Hoffman great in their single scene 4 stars
2/13/04 Natalie Stonecipher To gun control what LIFE OF DAVID GALE was to capital punishment. An insult to its cause. 1 stars
1/15/04 William I'm sorry to say but Rachel Weisz is the best thing here. 3 stars
1/12/04 Red Rachel Weisz and Gene Hackman make a bad movie look good.. 2 stars
1/11/04 Greg I had to pay good money in order to be subjected to this propaganda!! 1 stars
1/11/04 R McDowell What a waste of time!! 1 stars
12/30/03 Rick Hollywood hype 1 stars
11/25/03 Dan Weisz and Hackman are the best things here. 3 stars
11/16/03 John Bale Well paced thriller despite illogical surveillance plot that would shame the CIA 4 stars
11/12/03 ownerofdajoint gene hackman steals this movie 4 stars
11/11/03 Chris I'm a republican and I loved it. Don't take it too seroiusly. Great. See it. 5 stars
11/10/03 malcolm not the thriller i hoped for-hackman was awesome, as usual 3 stars
11/06/03 Cameron Slick Implausible Entertainment 4 stars
11/02/03 Suzz Kept waiting for the BIG surprise ending that never came. 3 stars
10/26/03 Norman F. Smith This movie is bombastic propaganda at its worst! 1 stars
10/25/03 canislupis The most obvious case of hollywood propaganda I have ever seen. I want my money back! 1 stars
10/22/03 Glenn Not true to the origional, Hollywood biased anti gun pulp fiction at best . 2 stars
10/21/03 scott I HAVE HUGE TESTIES 4 stars
10/18/03 Agent Sands (previously Mr. Hat) Great cast and good writing. Villains are evil and heroes are excellent. 4 stars
10/18/03 C R Bein' pro-gun don't ruin the fun, it's bein' a cheap pro-bullet bastard that kills me. j/k 4 stars
10/17/03 maxomai Anti-Gun political correctness ruins this for me. 1 stars
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  17-Oct-2003 (PG-13)
  DVD: 17-Feb-2004



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