(out of 5)
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 (John Cusack) 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 (Joanna Going) 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.
Directed by Gary Fleder
Cinematography by Robert Elswit
Music by Christopher Young
Production Design by Nelson Coates
Costume Design by Abigail Murray
Film Editing by William Steinkamp