One generally knows what to expect from a movie based on a John
Grisham novel. A moralistic, Southern lawyer represents an unfairly
persecuted client against a giant, evil corporation represented by
a sleazy yet skilled defense attorney.

“Runaway Jury,” the seventh Grisham novel adapted to film,
retains all of these elements, but adds a slight twist to the basic
courtroom drama. Instead of relying on standard dramatic orations
and arguments, this movie focuses on a battle to manipulate the
jury.

When Celeste Wood’s (Joanna Going, “Phantoms”) husband is shot
and killed in his office, she turns to attorney Wendell Rohr
(Dustin Hoffman). Rohr files a lawsuit against the gun manufacturer
that negligently allowed its guns to fall into the hands of
criminals. The gun company hires Rankin Fitch (Gene Hackman) to fix
the trail by bullying and manipulating the jury to decide in his
client’s favor. Fitch seems to have total control of the jury,
until juror Nicholas Easter (John Cusack) and his girlfriend Marlee
(Rachel Weisz, “The Mummy”) begin their own game of manipulation
and deception.

Though the cat-and-mouse game between Easter and Fitch is not
typical Grisham fare, it adds little entertainment value. Their
uncanny ability to manipulate the jurors and the events in the
courtroom seems highly implausible. Furthermore, the film becomes
overburdened by the added plot twist. Is this a dramatic story of a
lawsuit against gun manufacturers, or is it a thriller about
control and exploitation? “Runaway Jury” just contains too many
plot elements, sub-stories and characters.

There are, however, moments in “Runaway Jury” that make the
movie worthwhile. Rohr’s confrontation with Fitch is a stirring
homage to the integrity of justice in America, and watching Hackman
and Hoffman square off is certainly something special. Also, Cusack
provides some amusing and entertaining moments, as his character
subtly wrests control of the jury from Fitch.

If the film had only focused on the unwavering honor of Wendell
Rohr, or the cunningness of Nicholas Easter, it may have made for a
better movie. In the end, however, the overly abundant plots and
superfluous characters dilute the action of “Runaway Jury” and doom
the film to failure.

Rating: 2 stars

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.