Runaway Jury (2003)

Directed by Gary Fleder

If you’re at all familiar with the books of John Grisham, particularly the films made based on those books, you have a pretty good idea what to expect with Runaway Jury. It’s a suspense-thriller-mystery sort of thing with lots of characters and lots of misdirection to keep you guessing.

And it’s all done pretty well. There is nothing terribly innovative here, it’s simply a good, engaging movie with a number of excellent performances.

It boasts the appearances of Gene Hackman and Dustin Hoffman, two great actors who, after knowing one another for almost fifty years, are finally working together. It also boasts the appearance of John Cusack, plus numerous other very good actors in supporting roles.

So this movie has some jam, at least when it comes to names – Grisham, Hackman, Hoffman and Cusack.

The story is fairly convoluted: following a gunman’s murderous spree in a downtown office, the wife of one of the victims brings a suit against gun companies claiming they are partly responsible for the deaths due to the kinds of guns they produce, the way they are marketed and the controls over who has access to them.

It’s a jury case and John Cusack’s apparently reluctant character is called upon to be a member.

The lawyer representing the widow is Dustin Hoffman’s character, a man with a certain degree of ethics and belief in the legal system.

The gun companies, as part of their defense, have hired an expert in jury selection, the character played by Gene Hackman.

He’s a pro with many assitants and loads of surveillance electronics to help him get information on potential jurors.

He’s very good, almost frighteningly so, and appears to have no moral qualms about what he does. He is indifferent to the rights and wrongs of cases. He cares only about winning.

The twist in all of this is John Cusack. Working with his girlfriend and partner (Rachel Weisz), he lets both sides know the jury can be bought. His influence, and decision in the case, are up for sale.

The story plays out wonderfully and at very quick pace. As it misdirects, it also keeps moving in such a way you don’t have a lot of time to consider the numerous clues and other information the film provides, so you are easily led down false paths.

It’s great entertainment.

And, as the promos for the film keep saying, there is a surprise to the ending, though I would say it’s less a surprise than an interesting and satisfying final twist in the plot.

In the end, it plays like a very fun ride, one well worth taking.

© 2003 Piddleville Inc.

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