Film Catch-Up: Runaway Jury

It seems to be an unwritten rule that John Grisham adaptations have to contain actors you know. Here, we have John Cusack, Gene Hackman, Dustin Hoffman, Rachel Weisz, even down to small roles (Jeremy Piven, Jennifer Beals) filling the screen in order to help you pass a few hours of pleasant but nothing special entertainment, as you watch Grisham use his legal knowledge to create a fantasy that is able to deliver justice to big bad men (in this case, the makers of guns used to kill people, although it was a large tobacco company in the original book).

There is a nice idea behind the film, of looking at the people who profile potential jurors for the big cases and the way they operate, as well as the reason behind why the improbably named Nicolas Easter (Cusack) and Marlee (Weisz) deliberately get Easter onto the jury and use their ability to persuade the jury to get money from the prosecutor (Hoffman) or the jury profiler (Hackman). Setting it in New Orleans for an interesting backdrop, and you have all the necessary requirements to get the greenlight from executives. However, it is never really more than competent.

Gary Fleder is a capable director, keeping the plot moving along but never giving the film anything special. Even the face-off between Hoffman and Hackman (friends for over 40 years, they had never been onscreen together before) doesn’t light up the screen – it turns out that the scene wasn’t in the script and was made up during filming, just so they could have the two of them against each other. In contrast, this film marks the tenth time Cusack and Piven have been in a film together. A passable film but nothing to stick in the mind afterwards.

Rating: DA

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