Runaway Jury

| November 11, 2003

It isn’t the best movie I have ever seen. It’s not even the best courtroom drama I have ever seen. It isn’t close to being the most complicated “whodunit” either. But if you want an entertaining evening at the theater, Runaway Jury is a good way to expend your hard earned cash.
The tag line for this movie is dead on: Trials are too important to be decided by juries. That is the feeling of several gun manufacturers, one of which is being sued for making a product that is hazardous to our health.
Dylan McDermott (TV’s The Practice) is Jacob Woods, an investment counselor who walks into his firm on a Monday morning only to become one of several shooting victims by a recently fired employee. His wife sues the gun manufacturer, saying that they knew they were putting a product on the market that was being used by criminals.
The manufacturer feels that they can not afford to lose this case so they hire a jury advising firm run by Rankin Fitch (Gene Hackman). His company’s services run wider than the normal psychological studies and recommendations. On their menu are everything from surveillance, extortion, arson, and breaking and entering. They have been hired to fix this jury and might very well get away with it except for the wild card they never imagined. Nicholas Easter (John Cusack) is that unexpected wild card. He has an agenda that will run completely contrary to Fitch’s firm and Easter has the advantage because he is chosen for the jury.
Easter and his girlfriend (Rachel Weisz as Marlee) are out to extort $10 million from the gun company in order to swing the jury towards a not-guilty verdict. If they are not paid, they will swing it against the gun company. They are also attempting to get the plaintiffs to pay as well but plaintiff lawyer Wendall Rohr (Dustin Hoffman) feels he has a good case without their help.
Who will pay? Who will win the case? What are the other motives that are driving Cusack and Weisz? These are the story lines we are given to follow and director Gary Fleder (Kiss The Girls, Impostor) does a generally admirable job in weaving them together. There are, however, lots of plot holes ranging from the very small (how can a sequestered juror get an incoming phone call) to rather large (can’t share that – it effects the plot) that continually got into my head, but the overall movie is good so I suggest you ignore them and enjoy the movie.
Considering the cast, the acting is good, not great. Hoffman’s (Tootsie, Confidence) accent seems to come and go and I have generally seen him in much better parts. Hackman has played the heavy in several movies (Absolute Power, Unforgiven) and seems to just draw on those experiences rather than create anything new. I enjoy him far more when he plays the good guy (Hoosiers). Cusack (High Fidelity, The Sure Thing, Identity) and Weisz (Confidence, Enemy at the Gates) were both excellent as the partners going after the gun companies in their own way.
I wish that they had gone more into the 2nd Amendment and what it really says (the first 10 words are the key), but that is just an antigun person’s ramblings. Ramble on over to your theater and see this one before it runs away to the video store.

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