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This is a dvd that I have had on my dvd shelf for at least 3 years and have never gotten around to watching. Ok well that's a lie I did attempt it once on a lazy Sunday afternoon and fell asleep ten minutes in and after that never had much interest in watching it.
However this weekend our family was having one of our great movie nights. My sister, mum and myself all trouped round to my grandparents house laden down with pizza, salad, wine and chocolates. Oh and of course some dvds. We spent along time deciding what film to take over that would be grandparent suitable, and whilst looking over my dvd collection found my copy of the runaway jury and decided this would be the perfect time to watch it.
My granddad, being a John Grisham fan, was in particular very keen to see it so on it went. And I have to say the whole family really enjoyed it.
The film is based on the bestselling book by John Grisham. Grisham, being an ex-lawyer himself, has written several books on the American legal system, all of which are good thrillers and have often been made into films. The Runaway jury was published in 1996 and was his seventh book to be published.
It was made into a film in 2003. Although some of the story has been changed for the purposes of the film, which I will go into more detail on later, the main bulk of the story appears to have stuck fairly closely to the plot line of the book.
The story of the Runaway Jury opens with a mass shooting that takes place in a stock brokerage firm in New Orleans. Husband and father Jacob Wood is killed in his office by the gun man , who turns out to be a disgruntled ex-employee.
The film then cuts to two years later and Jacob Wood's wife, Celeste Wood, is filing a lawsuit against the gun company that manufactured the gun that killed her husband, hoping for compensation. We are introduced to her lawyer Wendell Rohr, played by Dustin Hoffman, who is highly passionate about this case, although realising that it will be in credibly difficult to win.
Both Sides of the case hire jury selectors who are employed to help decide who the best jurors are going to be to help them win their case. The Defence hires the infamous Rankin Fitch, played by Gene Hackman, who is not only the best at what he does, he is the most ruthless. The owners of the Gun company are paying vast amounts of money to Fitch to ensure not only that he picks the best jurors out of the group up for selection but that also he will be able to manipulate them to vote in the right way.
Gene Hackman was absolutely fantastic at this part, he was a born baddie and was entirely convincing as the ruthless psychologist.
One of the jurors to be considered is Nicholas Easter, Played by John Cussack, and at first it seems that he is desperate to not be selected for jury service. However it soon becomes clear that he and his girlfriend Marlee (Rachel Weisz) are playing a very clever game and are in fact using Nicholas' position on the jury to swing the vote either way and are going to blackmail both sides for a ridiculously large sum of money to buy a vote.
I would definitely recommend this film to anyone. It is fast paced and thrilling with an exciting storyline that keeps you interested. You do find yourself having to really concentrate in the first part of the movie to follow the story as it is very fast moving, this certainly didn't stop any of us enjoying the film.
Although the story has been changed in that in the book they are suing a cigarette company rather than a gun company , which my sister took great offence to as a fan of the book, however all in all it stuck fairly closely to the story.
It also had tremendous acting from all the main characters. In particular Gene Hackman and Dustin Hoffman were so believable as the characters that you almost forgot who they were. I think this is a mark of a good actor that you think of them as the character alone and forget other big characters they have played in the past.
The film also has a very clever twist at the end that I obviously wont spoil here but I will say explained a lot of things that were slightly confusing to me a the beginning and added an extra set of emotions to the story.
I think I actually saw the film before I read the book, but I remembered so little about it that it could not have affected my view of the book much at all. Anyway, the film, The Runaway Jury, based on the equally titled book by John Grisham, came on television recently. I must be getting too keen as I actually decided to watch it just so that I could write this review!
There are some differences between the book and the film. The book is about cigarette manufacturers being sued for their part in the death of a smoker, whereas the film is about gun manufacturers, being sued for their part the death of a victim of a shooting. I can imagine this has a lot to do with the need for more action on a screen than you would require from just reading a novel, but it does mean that although the story is translated well, some parts have had to be added, altered or omitted for everything to make sense. At the start of the film I wondered for a moment if I even had the right channel!
So basically Jacob Wood was among a number of people shot dead at work one day. The wife has sued the manufacturers, holding them partially responsible for his death by making available the weapons used by the killer. Nicholas Easter is one of the 12 selected jury members, but he and another girl on the outside, who calls herself "Marlee" seem to be taking control of the jury and planning to sell a verdict to whichever side is willing to pay. They are treading on dangerous grounds, and big money is at stake, but is there more to why they are doing this and will they get the deal that they want? More importantly, who will get the verdict they want and will it be the right one?
Unlike the novel, the story does shuffle through the selection process quite quickly, and instead focuses on events during the trial. This is favourable in terms of not tiring the audience early, but in addition to this, the film seems in a hurry to tell all as quickly as possible, and this just kills the suspense that we had in the book. The film mostly tells the story from the perspective of Nicholas Easter and Marlee, and this means that a lot of the mystery about them is also out in the open far too early. It becomes too easy to work out what is coming, and so after this you are just waiting for it to happen.
I'm not too familiar with John Cusack, although I have seen a few films with him in, and I can't say he stands out as a particularly good actor to me. Somehow for me he fitted the role of Nicholas Easter well, but that may be because I saw the film before I read the book. Unfortunately, Easter is a pretty mediocre person to begin with, and in the film, he doesn't develop too dramatically, leaving little opportunity for Cusack to add to the role, although he occasionally shows some passionate sides to him. This was not so much of a problem in the novel, because all the other characters, e.g. jury members in particular, had interesting backgrounds of their own and there was more about their own lives, whereas in the film, they barely got the opportunity to be identified individually. I think the only ones that got much notice were Lonnie Shaver and Ricky Coleman, the rest were just background characters.
Rachel Weisz is an actress that I do quite like, because she's not weak or flimsy but she's also capable of creating some very moving scenes. She is best known for her parts in The Mummy and The Mummy Returns, but has been in quite a mix of films. She was quite an effective character here, not giving away too much until the right moment. The character, however, was slightly different to how I'd imagined in the book, probably to be more realistic and also to keep viewers on the edges of their seats.
Dustin Hoffman, although a good actor, did not come across quite as I had hoped in this film. In the book, his character is quite a character, and a little eccentric, whereas here he just comes across as very ordinary. As Fitch, Gene Hackman also disappointed me a little as I had Fitch pictured as a bit of a tyrant, but with more depth. Although he shows a few temper tantrums, I just didn't find him effective at getting that fierce side across. There was more of an emphasis on physical threats, whereas my idea of Fitch was that it was about how he looked at people and spoke to them that made them fear something, rather than just going ahead and slamming or punching stuff.
To be honest the effects in the film are nothing special, but convincing enough, nonetheless. There is a little bit of action/violence, but you really don't see much and most is left to imagination instead. Admittedly, the first time I watched this, before I'd read the book, I was expecting more action, but actually it would have made sense not to go down this road and detract the audience from the very essence of the film - if I had felt the story had been shaped to reflect this properly. Since instead the focus was more on a game of cat and mouse, with only subtle hints at meanings and messages behind the story, it would have been better to at least make it more exciting.
To be honest I don't have much recollection of the soundtrack at all, so it really must have been on of those background ones. It is probably enough to say that it had no impact on my opinion of this film.
Although there is some violence in this film, little injury is actually shown and also given that the film is also showing us the effects of gun crime directly, it can't really be condoning violence. The Runaway Jury has been rated 15, and I'm not sure why it didn't make a 12 (I thought it was a 12 until I looked it up) although I doubt most teenagers or younger would be interested in this sort of film anyway. It really is aimed at a slightly older audience. There were no sexual scenes and I don't actually remember much swearing, so at least the film is not offensive!
The second time I watched this film was really only so that I could write this review, and to be honest, the first time was virtually unmemorable. Even now I'm finding that my memory of the details of this film has gone vague. Frankly, I found it a little too tiresome to watch, and in even if the acting wasn't too bad, it just did not appeal. In terms of matching the book, I felt it left out, or brushed over some of the things that stood out as important to me when I read the novel, so that was another potential advantage dropped. The court room scenes are brief and hard to follow, because you are trying to see what else is going on. This could either have been more dramatic or more educational, but given that I felt neither was achieved, I was very disappointed.
So, neither particularly entertaining nor particularly educational, I failed to see the value in this film. For that reason, I'm not going to recommend it at all, although I'm sure it is not a film people will hate, it just isn't worth watching, and certainly not worth buying.
I'm quite a big fan of Grisham's books, having read about 70% of them up till now, but not so of the films as most of them have a "made for TV" feel to them IMO. However, seeing the strong cast involved in this, I took the plunge and am glad I did.
A disgruntled and dismissed day-trader is fired from his job and comes back armed and dangerous the following day to wreak a bloody revenge on the company that fired him. Fast forward two years and we see the wife of one of the victims in court having filed suit against the gun makers (in the book it was a tobacco company) who she said were negligent in the distribution of their lethal semi-automatic weapons. Not for the first time, the gun makers form a shady consortium and pool their money to hire Rankin Fitch (Hackman), ostensibly a jury consultant but behind the scenes a lot more. He sets up "office" with his highly trained and ruthless team in downtown New Orleans and gets to work investigating, tailing, bribing and coercing the jurors they helped to hand-pick for their best interests.
Only one juror, Nicholas Easter (Cusack), is a mystery to them, untraceable since his arrival in town just 8 months ago. Working alongside the mysterious Marlee (Weisz), he has the jump on Fitch and his team and more importantly, inside influence. Fitch is frustrated and resorts to dirty tactics as Easter and Marlee play him off against the defence attorney Wendel Rohr (Hoffman), apparently ready to sell the verdict to the highest bidder.
The plot twists and turns at pace though does stretch credibility at times. Fitch's temporary office resembles NASA and the chances of Easter getting on the jury for that case are marginal but these points aside, it is a highly enjoyable courtroom drama. Cusack downplays Easter with aplomb, Weisz is excellent as the girl on the outside, the thorn in Fitch's side whose own motives are revealed towards the end. Hackman, a moral desert, puts in an excellent Popeye Doylesque performance and owns the screen every time he's on it. Hoffman not so - his cotton suited Mr Do-good lawyer is a bit unbelievable at times but not so terrible.
Quality film though, well worth two hours of your time.
I saw my first Grisham film en route to the States, many years ago, and spent a good part of it hiding behind my hands and crying for the two boys in the story. But that was almost 14 years ago, and I've grown up a bit in since. Surprising, then, that Runaway Jury had me at times biting my lip and peering through my fingers again.
The film starts with an early morning office scene. We follow one man in particular as he arrives at work, pulls his secretary to one side and tells her he has a serious problem - he's forgotten something he promised his son, and needs to remember so as not to let him down. There's instant relief in her face when she realises this is the seriousness of it, and they start working it out. Moments later shots can be heard. Then screams. People running. Falling. Trying to get out of what appears to be a mad gunman's range. The scene ends.
Several months have passed when the main story begins. The widow of one of those gunned down is suing the weapon makers (the assailant having killed himself after mowing down almost a dozen others). The first, perhaps trivial task, is for the jury to be selected. Those "randomly" chosen from the list of available citizens of the area are called to the courtroom, where their suitability is determined through questioning by the prosecution and defence lawyers. Unbeknown both to themselves and to the judge, the defence have begun profiling those chosen to determine which are likely to vote against them and thus need eliminating at this early stage. However, in one of those only-in-a-film twists, there's another group of profilers at work, with their own ulterior motives. One of these manages to infiltrate the group becoming a chosen member of the jury, putting him in a perfect spot to influence the group, should the need arise. With the over-riding view in the film seeming to be that "trials are too important to be decided by juries", both sides begin to do whatever it takes to win the case.
For a film whose story is based mostly on a trial, and set around a courtroom, they manage to include some pretty spectacular scenery shots of both New Orleans and rural Indiana. The contrast between the two places is great, and is mirrored in many other ways in the film - by the two lawyers, one traditional and good, the other ruthlessly conniving and yet effective. The two profiling set-ups - one state of the art and a high-tech dream, the other more low-key and on an obviously smaller budget. The populations of the two towns, one laid back, full of open, friendly people and the other more dangerous with a sharp witted crowd who are not afraid to take the law into their own hands.
So far I've said little about what the case itself involved. In the original book I believe it involved a tobacco company, but this has been changed here to a gun firm, probably, I imagine, because the latter are a group yet to be challenged in an American court room, though many people have tried to sue the cigarette companies since the novel was published. There are some similarities to Thank You For Smoking, but only in the general theme, not the cinematic approach. The focus here isn't on the facts, per se, since these are known - the weapon used was found at the scene. Instead, it looks at whether, by selling these guns, the manufacturer had a responsibility to the public to ensure their 'safe', and I use the word loosely, usage. The verdict is perhaps surprising given the build up, but the film continues for a few minutes beyond it being delivered, to give a satisfying, well finished off ending.
The film is full of big names with John Cusack, Gene Hackman, Dustin Hoffman and Rachel Weisz all featuring. The casting seemed good, with both the sleazy and the wholesome characters being instantly identifiable, but some borderline ones being left to be decided upon as the story progressed. The judge is played by an actor we recognised from Legally Blonde 2 (he of gay dog fame) and he portrayed this character here in a firm yet mostly fair way.
At times, especially with the trade off scenes between Marlee and the 2 Jury-buyers, it reminded me of the part in Along Came A Spider where Alex Cross had to follow a trail of instructions left by the kidnapper. Otherwise it seemed a refreshing change to most current releases, being set in the deep south rather than the more glamorous east and west coast settings most movies are. The story is intriguing, the cast appropriate and the twists welcome and unexpected. There are a few snazzy lines - the title of this op being one of them, and a certain comment about fat women being another - but for most of the film we have solid, realistic dialogue (with quite impressive changing accents at required times, it has to be said).
At a little over 2 hours it's long by current Hollywood standards, but if anything it feels like they've missed out bits rather than stretched others out to fill time. The issue with Marlee's past, for example, seems to be over in seconds, and something that I felt should either have had more of a deal made over, or simply been arrived at faster. If it was that easy to find out, surely they should have got there sooner?
It's a courtroom drama, not a comedy Ally McBeal style but also not too much of a thriller - the story was more intriguing than scary. It's classified as 12A, which I think is fair, as though it's not of PG standard, some children under that age might still enjoy it. One to see at some point, I think, but DVD would probably be just as good as the cinema as there were no wonderful special effects or similar that would make big screen viewing essential.
Recommended even if you don't usually go for this sort of film - you might be pleasantly surprised.
The DVD can currently be bought on Amazon new for under £4 using the link above, but has no special features, so you can just as easily try to catch this when it comes on TV again.
Based on the novel by John Grisham 'Runaway Jury' is a courtroom dram starring John Cusack, Gene Hackman, Rachel Weisz and Dustin Hoffman. The adaptation from page to screen sees a few aspects of Grisham's story altered. A movie about a tobacco manufacturer being sued by a widow of a smoker doesn't have half as much dramatic potential of that of a firearms company being sued. This major change means at the outset of the movie we get to witness the blood bath of a gun toting madman - an explosive and shocking introduction to the plot.
Dustin Hoffman and Gene Hackman play lawyers on opposite sides involved in the courst case. Hackman is Rankin Fitch - his name, the pronunication of which is like spitting out a bad taste, is strangely appropriate to his hardline, underhanded method of working the jury. His approach to winning the case is a little out of the ordinary. Armed with secret cameras hidden in spectacles and briefcases which he smuggles into court he then has a secret team outside of the jury house researching each potential jury member. When his choice of jury is selected he can then go to work on blackmailing them until they agree to vote in his favour.
Dustin Hoffman plays Wendall Rohr, who is representing the gunshot victim's widow. Rohr is a straight up kinda guy who knows all about the shady tactics of his nemesis. Hoffman is infact almost a little too nice in the role and frequently comes across as a doting dad figure. A brilliant confrontation scene mid way through the case sees the two legendary actors spar and sees Rohr finally step up to the mark and prove he has guts and is not as naive as Fitch thinks he his. Both actors get some brilliant snappy dilogue in this key scene, with Rohr calling his contemporary "fella" and telling him that one day he'll lose a case. Fitch is cool as a cucumber throughout and strolls away sniggering saying he doesn't care about morals and never has done.
Cusack and Weisz play a sneaky couple who manage to get Cusack's character Nick Easter elected onto the jury in the case. The motives of both characters is a little unclear throughout most of the movie. Weisz's Marlee comes across as being a little mentally unstable although she is sassy, sharp and beautiful. Easter is a charmer and totally maniuplates his fellow jurors to follow his lead without them realising it. Easter and Marlee then let both lawyers know that they control the jury and prove this by telling both men that on one morning the jury will come out an quote the Pledge of Allegiance, which is exactly what they do!
After this there is a dirty battle between the four leads to win power, victory and money. A surprise twist at the end of the movie somewhat validates the actions of Easter and Marlee.
This is a brilliant movie which goes against the grain of most other courtroom dramas. This film has a lot of action and stunts outside the court and inside the court we are given the pleasure of seeing two esteemed actors, Hoffman and Hackman, pass the ball back and forth with amazing skill. The plot keeps you on your toes throughout and the end is somewhat more tragic and sad than I possibly could have imagined when I first saw this.
I actually read the original novel after I watched the movie and found that all the excitement and intelligence of the story was successfully transferred onto the screen.
The DVD is available on Region 2 PAL, Certificate 15.
Audio Commentary by Director Gary Fleder
Deleted Scenes with optional commentary
Selected scene narration
When trying to find a film to watch, there are a few important things I like to take into consideration. Firstly, I would prefer a cast of actors I like. Obviously. Secondly, I would prefer said actors to be naked. If I can't get that then I suppose I will watch it anyway.
Once upon a time when I was going through my "must have everything with John Cusack in it" phase, I stumbled in a drunken manner across a film I'd never heard of. Apparently it's a John Grisham adaptation which means a grand total of nothing to me, but it does make me think lovingly of the ugly old guy from CSI: Vegas (the only decent CSI).
Being one of the films I watched Con Bloke (mangling Spanish is fun), I got about half way through before turning off. Don't worry though, I didn't turn off because it was crap. Runaway Jury (the film in question) is actually quite fabby. I know, I watched it later.
We begin in an office in America. Not surprisingly, everyone gets shot. Well it is in a bbfc 15 rated vision of America, what did you expect? The random shooting of our American buddies leads to the beginnings of a court case. Dustin Hoffman (or Dustpan Hoffbin as I shall be calling him for no reason other than boredom) is the kind hearted (ish) lawyer who is on the side of the people who are dead. Gene Hackman (or Janine Pac-man, for the same reasons stated previously) would be on the side of the gun company having its sweet ass sued. I guess that makes him evil?
Now that we have established our good camps and bad camps, we get the task of choosing the jurors for the case. Nicholas Easter is to be one of them. That's Cusack by the way. While Pac-Man and Hoffbin are trying their best to win the jury over, with Pac-man doing a little more to sway them than present the facts (see "bribery") Cusack is playing the inside. We have a camp in the middle. And this camp kicks ass.
Easter seems like a nice guy who just wants an easy life. Soon enough we start to realise that Easter has his own agenda. Fortunately we aren't entirely sure what his agenda is. I say fortunately because we wouldn't have a very good movie otherwise.
Helped along by the lovely Weisz, whose name is strange enough without boredom taking over, Easter starts manipulating the jury to do exactly what he wants them to. Well you can't offer the greedy lawyers the verdict they want if you can't prove you own the jury for them now can you?
This gem is filled to the brim with atmosphere as tense as Cher's freshly botoxed cheeks, creating a great space for Cusack to play around in. And this is where I stop telling you what's going to happen. As much as I would love to let you know what the motives of the middle camp are and what way they eventually swing or even if they make it to the end... I'm a bugger and you'll just have to watch it.
I will however comment a little more on the performances of the actors. As much as they don't get as naked as I would like (and I'm only talking about Cusack because the others are old/female) everyone puts in an amazing performance. There was not one person who screwed the film up for me. Not one of them felt the wrath of the bored homo's sarcastic, cynical side. Not even the dumb rednecks on trial had an insult thrown at them by my mind. Well done all of you!!
I will also point out that there must be some subliminal horn inducing messages laced through the film. My evidence? I just got horny at around the exact same point I had to stop viewing while my man was over. Coinkydink? I think not! Evil film makers trying to horn you all up? Maybe. Me being an oversexed 21 year old gay man....Definitely. I blame Pavlov's Dog.
By the end of this amazing piece of film shaped joy (approximately 122 minutes from when it started) you'll be sitting on the edge of whatever you are sitting on. Unless it's the floor. I can't imagine how you would sit on the edge of that. You could possibly be sitting in the corner, fearing that this cinematic loveliness will come to an end. Don't worry though. As much as the earth shattering performances may be coming to an end... This is a DVD! THERE ARE EXTRAS!!!!
Audio Commentaries are plentiful in the extras section. I, as usual, won't be writing diddly squat about that because people who talk over movies need a kick in the face. Even you.
Two fun little glimpses into some of the other ideas they were going to put into the film. Personally, I don't see the point in giving us the deleted scenes in movies like this. It adds nothing. If anything it just goes to show us that the writers did have some crap ideas which, lucky for us, they took out. The quality of the scenes aren't too great since they are just the rough cuts.
----Selected Scene Commentary----
This is slightly different from a full movie commentary (as you may have guessed). We get two scenes where the actors get to tell us about how they felt about the scene. A bit of an oddity on this one, however, is that rather than just having the actors talk over the scene, we get a picture in picture thing going on. The scene becomes tiny and we get a shot of the actor prattling on in the top half of the screen. Still not a huge fan of people talking over the scene, but I shall forgive these two selected scenes, mainly because it is not a whole film full of people talking over the top.
----Exploring the scene----
Basically a little behind the scenes focusing on the same scene as one of the commentaries did. I hate this. I mean its all fair and well. It's a good look into how the scene works. Again. And that's what I don't like. Repetition is the Mother of stupidity. Give me something new please. Give me something NEW PLEASE. Give ME something NEW, PLEASE!!!! Not to mention it's a 15 minute look into... One scene. So what if it was the first scene ever between Pac-man and Hoffbin?? Maybe I'm just not appreciative of all of this extra stuff. In saying that, it does get ok after about 8 minutes. You become numb to it and just start listening to what they are saying.
----Off The Cuff----
Another 8 Minute piece of Pac-Man And HoffBin yapping about how they know each other. Is it just me or has this already been covered? Can I please see John Cusack talk about his penis for a while? What do you MEAN I have to put up with these two old men?? If I wanted this, I could take my granddad and his mate to the pub! The only thing that this has taught me is that Hoffbin swears a lot and it really doesn't suit him. Ok, so he doesn't swear half as much as I do. But I look cooler when doing it.
Oh wow! An Extra that's not about the same scene!??! YAY! CUSACK IS ON MY SCREEN! As is Weisz. I'm loving this just because it gets Pac and bin off my screen. And you get to hear Weisz's real accent, which is always funny after watching a film where she's 'Merkin. Weisz talks about seducing Pacman while Cusack tells us about how everyone he works with is great. A nice, short look into something different, this one gets my thumbs up. No, not like that. You disgust me.
----The Making Of----
I'm sure you all know how "making of" segments work. They flip between the actors, lots of shots from the film and (not surprisingly) making of the film, and give us a quick run down of what the film is about. Even though this is near the end of the extras, it manages to avoid most of the footage that's been used so far, giving us a different angle on the film. It also gives us interviews with people who actually DO pick juries for a living. As if that's not enough, we get to see Pacman dancing to bongos in a court room. I wish I was kidding. Despite this, I give this extra another digit in the upwards direction.
----Shadow and light----
This extra focuses on the cinematography. We get to see a lot of cameras moving round the set, with a little bit more swearing, this time from people we don't know all to well (how dare they) while they tell us that the actors had a great relationship with the camera. I'm sure that's illegal in some places. We are then told from some more strangers how great the camera men are. Not a bad extra at all, but then I'm an arty farty type. I can imagine a lot of people I know not really giving two craps how bright John Cusack's face was in scene 12.
----A Vision Of New Orleans----
Hosted by the production designer, this extra talks about the set and design. Which means its 5 minutes about the court room. He shows us all the bits that move out of the way for the cameras and points out some of the details you won't really notice unless some production nut comes into your DVD and points them out....hmm. Its all very pretty and well done mind you. I think I might fancy the production designer... Onto the next extra.
Talking about the editing of the film now. We get to see some of the editors talking about how they love their job and each other. They then talk about some of the scenes they didn't like till they done their job and edited them. An interesting little extra, but its bloody hard to make it sound good. It's half two in the morning, what do you expect?? I like it. That will be all.
Nope, not another extra. This review is now complete. This is usually the part where I tell you its totally worth the £10 I paid for it. Instead I will grumble that you can now pick this up for £3.99 from Play.com and be jealous of all of you that can now buy this great film and some decent extras on the cheap. Oh and for the record, No, I haven't read the book. It's probably a million times better, but I am but a man in a cave with shadows and play dough. I'm going to bed.
Runaway Jury is the 2003 film based on the John Grisham novel of the same name. It is the ninth novel of Grisham's to be made into a film, and the third starring Gene Hackman.
In the world of courtrooms, juries are comprised from a selection of a large number of the general public chosen at random. The whittling down to the number needed for each case is decided by the parties involved. There are experts in the field of jury selection, and Rankin Fitch is the best. So, when a large gun corporation calls on him to 'fix' the jury for their defence, he obliges for a large fee. Among the jurors is Nick Easter, a man with a hidden agenda where this case is concerned. He and his grilfriend Marlee are on a mission, but what for? Leading the prosecution is ageing stuttering nervous lawyer Wendell Rohr, in need of some help in going up against the big guns of Fitch and his team. As the case proceeds and spying and suspect measures are taken to swing the jury this way and that, who will win?
The Cast and Performances
John Cusack plays Nick Easter, and while this is not Cusack finest role, and perhaps he is not best suited to it, he gives a decent performance. Dustin Hoffman plays Rohr, and does well in bringing the nervous lawyer to the screen. However, the character very much takes a back seat in the film.
The two outstanding performances come from Gene Hackman and Rachel Weisz. Hackman plays Rankin Fitch, and takes over the screen throughout the film. The power of the character is matched by the power of the actor, and Hackman gives a stellar performance here. Weisz is his equal with her turn as Marlee, Easter's girlfriend and someone with revenge in mind. Her emotion comes to the fore in this role, and she is marvellous.
There are some good supporting roles, particularly from Bruce McGill as Judge Harkin, but it is to Hackman and Weisz that the film owes any success it has.
Considering the high level of success enjoyed by other John Grisham adaptations, this was a disappointment. It did not do as well in comparison, and reviews have not been so praiseworthy. And it is easy to see why.
For a start, the plot has changed somewhat from that of the book. The one thing you know from Grisham is that you will get an intricate plot well thought out and put on paper. When you change the plot in a certain way, it has a knock-on effect and makes it impossible to redress the balance. Here, the plot does not quite flow, and seems farcical at points. The unnecessary element of much of the plot is unreal, as the majority of the courtroom aspect would have been laughed out of court, so to speak.
Some of the action is intense, and there are some edge of the seat moments, but the majority of the film is confusing in terms of plot.
Despite these negatives, director Gary Fleder does manage to give us an exciting film, with some twists in the plot and some great performances from its stars. I did enjoy watching the film, but not as much as other John Grisham adaptations.
Not the best Grisham film, but a good watch nonetheless.
I rate this film at 3 stars out of 5.
The DVD is available from amazon.co.uk for £4.97.
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When a lawyer is murdered in a gun massacre, his widow decides to take the gun manufacturer to court. She blames them for the murder, due towards their irresponsible attitude towards people owning guns. She hires Wendell Rohr (Dustin Hoffman), an idealistic and honest lawyer, to oversea the case for the prosecution. Pulling the strings on the defense team is ruthless jury consultant Rankin Fitch (Gene Hackman) who is famed for achieving the desired results no matter what. With such a high profile case and with what could be a very expensive outcome, the importance of the perfect jury is crucial to both teams of lawyers. As the trial commences, the two teams are in for a huge shock, as they discover that there is one juror, Nicholas Easter (John Cusack) who is able to manipulate the jury in your favour, as long as the price is right. But as the trial comes towards an end, his motives along with his partners come into question.
On the front cover of my DVD it said "The best John Grisham adaptation since The Firm!". With this in mind I couldn't wait to watch the Runaway Jury as I loved the book. DISAPPOINTED, is an understatement, the film does not follow the Grisham novel, and in the way they have adapted it, have made a film which has a plot which is so weak that at times I felt myself laughing at its implausibility. Saying that, I watched this with someone who had not read the novel, and they thought that it was a very engrossing and clever thriller.
The film centers round a court case against one of America's biggest gun manufacturers where a juror has the power to control the jury, with his motivation being a huge payoff. In the Grisham novel, the court case is against a big tobacco giant, why they decided to change this is beyond me. The film is split into 2 sections. The first selection is the jury selection process and this is quite interesting as it shows the science behind how they pick juries. The second section is watching Nicholas Easter manipulate the jury, this is where the film goes down hill as the way he does this is not challenged and you are left to take it for granted. I would have thought that some of the things which happened would have caused the whole jury to be thrown out.
The casting and the characters in the film are also a bit disappointing as they are very much hit or miss. On the hit side is Gene Hackman (The Chamber) as Rankin Fitch. In my opinion his performance is the best in the film and he pretty much carries it on his shoulders. The only person to get anywhere near to his performance is Rachel Weisz (About a Boy) as Marlee, Nicholas Easter's co-conspirator. Up until now I had not been a huge fan of Weisz, but this film has changed my mind. On the miss side is John Cusack (The Grifters) as Nicholas Easter, the man on the inside with the cunning to change a juries mind. I honestly believe that Cusack did a good job, but the character he was portraying is to weak and does not come across as someone with the guile to manipulate a jury. Right at the bottom of the casting is Dustin Hoffman (Rain Man) as the prosecuting lawyer, Wendell Rohr. Rohr's character is not really explored in the film and is a complete waste of the talented Mr Hoffman. The rest of the cast put in over acted performances which at times looked as if they came straight out of an amateur theatre production.
The film is directed by Gary Fleder who had previously directed "Kiss the Girls". I don't often say this, but I feel he could have done a heck of a lot better and made this a much better thriller. For some reason he has got some of the cast over acting, which is quite distracting. But not only that, between him and the four screen writers, yes four screen writers, he has adapted what is a very good novel with a solid story into a very weak film which leaves you feeling cheated. Another disappointment was the fact that the film has been set in New Orleans and not as in the book, Biloxi, Mississippi. Why they decided to relocate the story is again a mystery as it does not play a huge part in the film. Fleder's only saving graces in the film, are that he has kept the pace of the film at a decent level, and that he manages to keep you hanging on for the next plot twist.
John Cusack .... Nicholas Easter
Gene Hackman .... Rankin Fitch
Dustin Hoffman .... Wendell Rohr
Rachel Weisz .... Marlee
Bruce Davison .... Durwood Cable
Bruce McGill .... Judge Harkin
Jeremy Piven .... Lawrence Green
Nick Searcy .... Doyle
Stanley Anderson .... Henry Jankle
Cliff Curtis .... Frank Herrera
Length: 122 mins
Conclusion & Rating
Personally I didn't find the film to be that great, but I'm sure my viewpoint is clouded by the fact that I had expected it to be like the Grisham novel. If I try and look at the film as not an adaptation of the book, then it is a reasonable thriller if not a little flawed. Sadly it is spoilt by a weak plot and some terrible over acting. All I can say is that if you have read the novel then give this film a miss or be prepared to be disappointed.
Runaway Jury is only £5.97 on Amazon which is a fare price for the film.
- This is Gene Hackman's and Dustin Hoffman's first film together. At the Pasadena Playhouse they were classmates and were both voted "Least Likely to Succeed". - Courtesy of IMDB
In the mid-90s, John Grisham could have stopped naming his novels and just scrawled Film Script Draft No. 1 on the cover. The Firm, The Pelican Brief, The Client, The Chamber, The Rainmaker, The Gingerbread Man and A Time To Kill all marched into cinemas as quickly as Grisham could cook up a new corporate-bashing, lawyer-loving plot.
Yet they never seemed truly happy on celluloid. Despite star casts and meaty plots, Grishams thrillers made glossy, comfortable, underachieving movies entertaining but forgettable. Just ask Francis Ford Coppola, whose direction was all but anonymous in The Rainmaker.
And Runaway Jury isnt about to break the mould.
Hardly surprising, really: director Gary Fleder might have offbeat minor classic things Things To Do In Denver When Youre Dead buried deep on his CV, but hes best known as the solid, stolid professional behind mid-range guff like Kiss The Girls and Dont Say A Word. Hes a fellow you can trust to take a complex story theres action going on in three separate arenas: the jury room, the offices of Fitchs jury consultant and the courtroom itself and keep it streamlined and clear. But thats about it. And when you have got a cast like this (John Cusack, Gene Hackman, Dustin Hoffman, Rachel Weisz), dont the words streamlined and clear just strum your disappointment glands?
Cusack, Hackman and Dustin Hoffman (as the trials prosecuting attorney) are great players but you cant just let them coast along. With a script geared towards keeping the principals apart for the bulk of the movie as Weiszs go-between girlfriend shuttles between them offering to sell the verdict to the highest bidder it should have been down to Fleder to boot their performances up a notch. But he appears to fear failure too much to make it happen, instead letting Cusack fall back on his familiar wide-eyed, head-tilting mannerisms, while Hackman just plucks a ready-made slick nasty off the shelf. Only Hoffman puts in the extra ounce, his neat, ambiguous turn leaving you unsure if hes a true believer or just another hired gun.
What we have here, then, is a glossy crowdpleaser with just enough additional spin to keep you teetering off balance. Fine, but you cant help wishing that Fleder had taken a few more risks, pushed his cast that bit harder and gone for a unanimous victory rather than simply dodging a guilty verdict.
If one thing can be learnt from Runaway Jury it?s that Gene Hackman likes starring in the movie adaptations of John Grisham books. This marks his third time around and while Grisham?s books are big sellers on the street, they haven?t always been big hits on the big screen and the same goes for Runaway Jury. Met with lukewarm reviews, the film made under $50 million in the US, which can probably be seen as a disappointment. A madman with a gun lets loose in a corporate building. This leads to the widow of one of the victims making a case against the gun manufacturers. Naturally such as case being lost would have severe repercussions for those in the gun trade. Collectively they hire Rankin Fitch (Hackman). Fitch is an expert Jury consultant who pick?s juror?s who have secrets, things that could be used against them in order for him to swing a verdict in his clients favour. However this time Fitch is the subject of blackmail as an unknown women (Rachel Weiz) contacts him to say she can control the jury for a price. Her man on the jury is Nic (John Cusack), the man who can change his fellow jurors perspectives based on which side is willing to pay the most to win. Caught in the middle is the prosecuting Wendall Rohr (Dustin Hoffman) who believes justice will prevail naturally but it tempted not to play by the rules. The problem with Runaway Jury is that it?s not really a feasible premise to put on film. It deals with a serious issue at heart but the logistics of the whole thing just wouldn?t be true in real life. For example it would take a genuine stroke of luck for Nic to get onto this particular jury. Yet it happens with relative ease, despite the man not really having much of a past. The idea that jury tampering goes on is probably true but the way it?s depicted here is
more like a techno thriller cum action movie. I?ve no doubt that the book is actually a good read, probably because it has time to iron out a story and slowly build. A two hour movie can?t do that and I feel Runaway Jury just has the basics on offer but little else because it?s restricted by what can be told on screen in a couple of hours. Thankfully the maker?s played a good card by rounding up a good cast. The real draw is the pairing of Hackman and Hoffman, they have very little interaction in the film except the film?s highlight where the two square off and show why they?re two of the best in the business. The film also fills out even the minor roles with recognisable faces such as Bruce Davison and Luis Guzman. It?s just a shame that we don?t get much on those who make up the jury. Director Gary Fleder is fast becoming known as a director who can make competent movies that look good and entertain but don?t do a lot else. Sure this film looks good, it?s not terrible, it?s not amazing, it?s just okay and I?m sure that a lot of people would have loved it to sizzle like a really good courtroom drama does. I have to say that this is worth a look purely for the cast but it?s a nothing film when it could have been a lot more.
I?m sure after my succession of books reviews everyone is well aware that I?m a fan of John Grisham novels. When it was announced that the Runaway Jury was due to be released as a film I decided to make the effort and see it. It?s one of the few books by him that I haven?t read, although it is buried deep within my to-read pile. So with very little to do on a Sunday night I chose to finally watch it. Like so many of Grisham?s books it starts with a major event to set the story. It?s early Monday morning in the offices of a high profile broker?s office and the staff are arriving for work. When an ex employee, sacked just one week before turns up and starts to kill his old co-workers. He starts to fire shots off around the office and after killing 12 people and injuring countless others he turns the gun on himself. We then fast forward a few months. The widow of one of the victims is suing the manufacturers of the gun that killed her husband for his death. She has called in Wendell Rohr (Dustin Hoffman), an anti gun lobbyist to fight her case. The defence have brings in an expert of their own, Rankin Finch (Gene Hackman). Finch is a Jury profiler and has been helping the gun companies with their choices of Jurors from the prospective list. However neither side had reckoned on Nicholas Easter (John Cusack) and his girlfriend Marlee (Rachel Weisz). Nick manages to get himself onto the Jury and slowly starts to gain control over certain members of the Jury. Their plan is to get enough Jury members onside to be able to deliver a verdict to the highest bidder. That?s where Marlee comes in; she has to convince either Wendell or Rankin that she can deliver the right verdict for them, if they give Nick and her the right price. Alt
hough I haven?t read the book, I knew fairly well what to expect from the plot. In typical Grisham fashion the story grips you. If you don?t like courtroom dramas then I?d say this film probably isn?t for you with 60% of the film based in or around the courtroom. The film really sticks to the standard Grisham template but does draw you in and keep you hooked on what?s going on. The director, Gary Felder, has a record of making good psychological thrillers. His adaptation of another book, Kiss The Girls by James Paterson, is the one I particularly enjoyed. He uses his locations well, choosing a couple of time to pan to the Courthouse with a panoramic view over the top of New Orleans. His direction is quite fast paced, not lingering on aspects of the film for too long, keeping it constantly moving. This is something that Grisham books occasionally lack, getting bogged down in small details, instead of flowing easily. Felder and screenplay writer Brian Koppelman will have cut away a lot of these sections in order to keep the audiences interest and prevent the film from getting bogged down. Although a lot of the locations will have been defined within the book, they do come across well. I?d say thought the story was always going to be good. Apart from the aforementioned trimming of detail I can?t imagine they needed to do too much to it. If you have read Grisham books then expect his usual style in this film. The director?s use of his cast impressed me as well. Particularly Cusack, who I do like in nearly every film he?s been in. His role as Nicholas Easter is possibly one of his best and reminds me a lot of his performance in Con Air. He also has amazing chemistry with Rachel Weisz, which makes it easier to accept they are a couple. Despite a small amount o
f screen time I thought she was perfect for the part. She really comes across as being quite cunning and smart, which made her a good choice for the role. This was also the first onscreen meeting of Dustin Hoffman and Gene Hackman. Both actors seem well suited to their roles, so strongly in fact I almost though the role of Rankin Finch had been written for specifically for Hackman. Both actors perform well as usual, which really added to my enjoyment of the film. There are only a couple of scenes where both appear on screen together, but the presence of both really stands out. I was a little disappointed they didn?t spend more time together but it meant there was more of an impact during the short scenes they were. The supporting cast didn?t really stand out too much, with the 4 stars really hogging the limelight. Of course with Hackman and Hoffman as two of those stars, it?s never a bad thing. As far as courtroom dramas go Grisham really does lead the field. His books really draw you in and luckily the transition to the big screen hasn?t lessened that appeal. This seems to have been the case with a lot of his books. The budgets on previous conversion?s weren?t anywhere near the same level but they have all been decent films in their own right. If your not a Grisham fan then I'd advise you to avoid id. however this is a much better film than I expected, so why not head on down the video shop and rent this tomorrow night.