Runaway Jury (2003)

Runaway Jury (2003)

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Hoffman does his best Alan Partridge impression. "Sorry, I'm stood very close to you..."
Hoffman does his best Alan Partridge impression. “Sorry, I’m stood very close to you…”

Twitter Plot Summary: John Cusack and Rachel Weisz manipulate a trial that is targeting a gun manufacturer.

Genre: Drama/Thriller

Director: Gary Fleder

Key Cast: John Cusack, Rachel Weisz, Gene Hackman, Dustin Hoffman, Bruce Davison, Bruce McGill, Jeremy Piven.

Five Point Summary:

1. Man goes crazy in 
office block!
2. Jeremy Piven. Greener than something that is very green.
3. Forget the fact they’re hacking John Cusack’s computer, have you seen the state of his flat?
4.  Hackman and Hoffman, united at last. In a… bathroom?
5. The plot threads all come together and… yeah, it was obvious in hindsight.

There’s a fine line to be walked with courtroom dramas. Get it wrong and you’re left with a big group of people just sat around a courtroom boring you to tears. Where Runaway Jury gets it right is by having compelling characters on all fronts and not just limiting the action to the courtroom. I’m not actually aware of any films where it’s a self-contained courtroom-only drama, so I’m not really sure what point I was trying to make. Moving on…

A man goes crazy with a gun and kills a few people. Two years later a case against the gun manufacturer reaches court. On the one hand are the defendants and their extensive team of legal experts; on the other is the “little man”, a lawyer who is incredibly talented yet lacks the resources of his opponents. He wins cases based on skill, not cash. On the side of the prosecution is Gene Hackman, lurking in the background and using all sorts of shady techniques to ensure his client gets the result they’re after. Essentially he has an evil villain’s lair where he’s orchestrating events in the courtroom. On the other side are incorruptible Dustin Hoffman and his green assistant Jeremy Piven. Then thrown into the mix are John Cusack and Rachel Weisz – Cusack is on the inside on the jury itself, attempting to manipulate the jurors to his own ends, whilst Weisz is doing the same from the outside, lobbying both Hackman and Hoffman and offering the verdict to the highest bidder.

John Cusack's Superman demo tape became viral hit "man pushes car with one hand."
John Cusack’s Superman demo tape became viral hit “man pushes car with one hand.”

Hackman and Hoffman are on fine form as opposing sides of counsel, although they don’t have any direct interaction until late in the film, and only then in a single scene. It’s a fantastic scene though, the dialogue zings and the long wait for them to appear together in a film was worth it. Yes, it’s in a washroom/bathroom, so that’s a bit weird, but despite that it’s the best scene in the film. Two men with diametrically opposite philosophies coming to verbal blows, it’s simply electric. Cusack is as reliable and engaging as ever, and carries every scene he appears in – what’s his agenda? Which side of the fence is he going to fall on? Weisz’s character outside of court is less impressive, she’s integral to the story but she doesn’t have that much to do.

With all of this going on there’s plenty to try and keep track off. The script doesn’t overcomplicate the various twists and turns, so whilst you’re not quite sure what’s going to happen next you can at least keep track of everything that’s happening. The fact it’s an adaptation of a John Grisham novel is probably why it works as well as it does, his books are generally well written and pacey affairs and that has translated to the movie screen. By the time you reach the finale everything comes to a head and the various plot strands intertwine, and in theory should leave you completely clear as to why we’ve reached that point. And if not – watch it again, it will make sense. There isn’t that much to it, let’s be honest. Very good, if not spectacular.

Favourite scene: When everything comes together at the end. Finally it all makes sense.

Quote: “Gentlemen, trials are too important to be left up to juries.”

Silly Moment: It’s not much, but selecting the jury via secret cameras is a tad silly.

Score: 3.5/5

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