Runaway Jury (2003)

GARY FLEDER

Bil’s rating (out of 5):   BBB

USA, 2003.  Regency Enterprises, New Regency Pictures, Epsilon Motion Pictures.  Screenplay by , , , , based on the novel by .  Cinematography by .  Produced by , .  Music by .  Production Design by .  Costume Design by .  Film Editing by .  

Some enjoyment can definitely be had from this slick adaptation of John Grisham’s novel, another in a long line of film versions of the author’s best-selling thrillers. Never one to settle into any kind of repetitive formulas, it once again has the little guys going against the evil big guys in the courtroom, but this time the innocent lawyer is not the main focus. In fact, the protagonist is a mercenary juror () who has teamed up with his girlfriend (Rachel Weisz) to sway the jury one way or the other, depending on which side of the case is willing to pay more.  Dustin Hoffman is the plaintiff’s attorney, who is representing his client () in a lawsuit against the gun company that produced the weapon that a failed financial trader used to kill her husband (Dylan McDermot) and ten of his colleagues. On the other side, the defense has hired a jury-selection expert (Gene Hackman), whose main job is to illegally screen all candidates down to the last detail and decide for the legal team which are worth keeping. This film wants you to never know where to draw the lines, shading the good guy-bad guy areas in an effort to add ambiguity and make the film less predictable. It succeeds for quite a while, but eventually the outcome becomes obvious before it actually plays out.  It is an enjoyable product from Hollywood’s thriller factory, a whole cut above the dreck of A Time To Kill and The Rainmaker but far from the standard of the fully enjoyable The Client. Performances are strong, with Hackman doing his usual heavy and Hoffman his passionate character acting, while Weisz, as usual, shines.

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