A Film Review By Jason L. King
|Rating: Rated PG-13 for violence, language and thematic elements
Starring:John Cusack, Gene Hackman, Dustin Hoffman, Rachel Weiz
Directed By:Gary Fleder
Truth, Justice, honesty. What do those words mean anymore? Does anyone honestly know? In a world that is surrounded in big budget mergers and big company buyouts, scandals that are running amuck and Hollywood figureheads winning political elections, it’s hard to even dream of a time when there wasn’t corruption in the world. But never the less, the people still have faith in the law, and that justice will be served to those who fight against the system. To ensure this, the jury system has been created and used to judge criminal trials. But it only takes time when even the opinions of 12 random citizens can be bought. After all, everything has a price.
Runaway Jury tries to bring the corruption of the Court system to life with a star studded cast and a story that only legal drama bestseller John Grisham could write. Our story follows a heated gun control case, and two lawyers who will stop at nothing to win. On one side we find our white knight for truth a justice, the lawyer of the people, Wendell Rohr (Dustin Hoffman) fighting against a Jury consultant that has a reputation for winning cases based on hand selecting jurors, named Rankin Fitch (Gene Hackman). But what they never expected is that one of the jurors (John Cusack) themselves had their own agenda, and in the end has found away to control the outcome of the case, and is willing to let either side win…for the right price.
I’ll be the first to admit I am an avid fan of John Grisham. Many of his titles sit on my bookshelves, including my own copy of the Runaway Jury. For those of you not familiar with the works of Grisham, titles such as, The Firm, The Client, The Pelican Brief, A Time To Kill and The Chamber should all sound familiar if you are familiar with the film world or the book world. Grisham’s best selling novels are found in about any bookstore, and about every airport or bus terminal in the world. Why do you ask? It’s because Grisham novels are what many call “airport fluff.” It’s the type of book that easily grips you from start to finish, even though none of them really stray from the good vs. evil lawyer conflict. None of them really set out to make a long lasting impact on you, they are easy to read enjoyable time killers.
Just like the John Grisham Book Series, the films are the exact same way. Most times people watch them for the people attached to them rather than the in depth plot or the excellent filmmaking. In this case the story doesn’t stray too far away from the book; however, they change the focal point of the case to gun control rather than the Big Tobacco industry that the book uses. For the Grisham fan, there are a few hidden “Easter egg” lines in the film that mention smoking, and Big tobacco companies just to show they didn’t ’completely forget about the book’s “original idea.” Runaway Jury touts Gene Hackman, Rachel Wiez, John Cusack and Dustin Hoffman as the big stars and with a cast like that it’s hard to not want to go and see the film. Each of them has proven that they can act, and have quite a following.
Dustin Hoffman does a nice job of our film’s White Knight, and his down to earth wholesome lawyer character is well played. However I didn’t really feel that this was a far stretch from other roles that Hoffman has played in the past. On the other hand, the always pleasing to watch Gene Hackman once again stole the screen by bullying his way through each and every scene that he was in. Even at his character’s supposed weakest point, you still felt a bitter energy pervading from his character. Hackman stole the show, but his supporting cast gave him the opportunity to do so. Rachel Weiz and John Cusack also do an equally good job, but neither of them do anything that is exciting enough to praise for long periods of time. Cusack is definitely one of the better actors of his generation, and seeing him in a film amongst some of the older greats such as Hackman and Hoffman it is a pleasure to watch.
But in the end, substance is what this film lacks. You see the ending coming from a mile away, but as someone once pointed out to me, who doesn’t see the ending coming in any movie based off a Grisham novel? Good beats evil, justice prevails and the world is a better place again even amidst all the corruption. But the real question is does this film prevail in the end? Is it worth the ticket price? In the end, the Verdict is a yes if you are looking for a fun time. This pointless fluff of a fast paced legal drama holds your attention for it’s two-hour runtime, and gives some very talented actors a chance to work together and show off their skills. Although just like a Grisham novel and other movies based off Grisham Novels, Runaway Jury will be quickly forgotten and hidden away on rental shelves, It deserves more credit than it probably will by most critics. The final verdict is simple, if you want to be entertained this movie is probably worth your ticket price, and if nothing else definitely worth a rental when that time comes around.