26
Nov
08

Runaway Jury

runawayjury01

It’s been five years since the last film adaptation of a John Grisham tale, perhaps in part because big-screen courtroom drama can seem a little extraneous in these days of near 24-hour Law & Order syndication. TV vet Gary Fleder ought to know that, but he nonetheless introduces us to Wendell Rohr (Dustin Hoffman), a disheveled yet noble attorney prosecuting a firearms manufacturer in a high profile wrongful death case. Rohr’s nemesis is the ridiculously monikered Rankin Fitch (Gene Hackman), a jury-tampering expert hired by the defense to avoid paying an enormous settlement. Throwing the proverbial monkey wrench into the works are juror Nicholas Easter (John Cusack) and his girlfriend, Marlee (Rachel Weisz), who intend to shake down both the prosecution and defense teams, swinging the verdict in favor of the highest bidder. Nicholas is joined in the jury box by a cattle call of two-dimensional stock characters—the goth chick, the career alcoholic, the sassy black lady—and an absurdly allegorical one: the blind jury foreman, introduced not five minutes after a shot of Cusack looking up at a blindfolded statue of Justice outside the courthouse. From here on the movie pushes all the usual buttons in the proper order, mixing equal parts cat-and-mouse game and courtroom showboating with the de rigueur multiple plot twists—so many twists, in fact, that everyone ends up being exactly who they were in the first place. Though Fleder and his cast (especially Cusack) handle it all efficiently enough, Runaway Jury is ultimately much like its beach-novel source material: divertingly slick but hardly fulfilling.

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