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:: Runaway Jury

The major force of this latest John Grisham adaptation is the dynamic pairing of Gene Hackman as the evil, callous and calculating jury “consultant” Rankin Fitch and Dustin Hoffman as idealistic good guy, Southern lawyer Wendall Rohr. Also starring John Cusack as Juror number 9, Nick Easter and his cohort Marlee (Rachel Weisz) in this fast paced, plot driven court room drama (where have they gone?).

A jury must be selected for one of New Orleans biggest and unheard of civil law suits against a gun manufacturer and grieving widow over the death of her husband in a random shooting. Wendall Rohr is her prosecutor believing they have a strong case, until complications arise during jury selection. A wise cracking juror number 9, Easter, goes about staking his claim with the jurors, making friends and being nice until it is discovered he didn’t just accidentally find himself there, he harbours a hidden agenda. In fact many hidden agendas seemingly pop up as it is discovered he has a lady friend, Marlee on the outside working Rohr and ex-prosecutor and illegal jury consultant and gun people friend Fitch. Selling Easters vote for the right price to the right side, but which one is it? And how will Easter prove that he is capable of some gentle persuasion with the jurors, who all are discovered to have their own personal agendas for sitting in on the trial.

The acting by all the main players of this drama are finely in tune, Cusack and Weisz are a great a great pairing to watch as it Weisz with both senior actors. The chemistry between Hoffman and Hackman is compelling to watch, breathing new life and meaning into the age-old good guy, bad guy scenario. The plot wastes virtually no time from its jarring and horrific opening sequence through to its quick and clever exposition of each characters motivation in the trial. The pacy editing during the jury selection maintains relevant suspense, as the scenes where Marlee chases her “gold.” The clever sequences with Nick befriending his jurors proving to Rohr and Fitch that he is capable to more than they believe him to be are also convincing to watch.

As the story twists and turns in every direction you’d never imagine, at its core it does have a very moralistic message, which unfortunately leaves the film quickly dissipating toward the end. The strong and consistent performances do salvage it from totally being lost.

Although one wonders whether other gun-bearing countries such as the US would take to its very anti-gun message, it is interesting to see an American film with the audacity to stand up to a nation of gun lovers. This could possibly be the reason why it had fairly poor to mixed reviews over there.

However, as far as courtroom dramas go this one has as good a cast as your going to get, just mind the moral preaching on the way out.