Runaway Jury is a 2003 American legal thriller film directed by Gary Fleder and starring John Cusack, Gene Hackman, Dustin Hoffman, and Rachel Weisz. It is an adaptation of John Grisham’s 1996 novel The Runaway Jury. Also starring in the movie are Jeremy Piven, Bruce Davison, Bruce McGill, Marguerite Moreau & Jennifer Beals in supporting roles.
The book is always better than the movie in most cases and it certainly is the case over here but having said that, I must admit that the movie is certainly watchable though not too exciting. But they do have a stellar cast which more than makes up for the lack of excitement. In New Orleans, a failed day trader at a stock brokerage firm shows up at the office and opens fire on his former colleagues, then kills himself. Among the dead is Jacob Wood. Two years later, with attorney Wendell Rohr, Jacob’s widow Celeste takes Vicksburg Firearms to court on the grounds that the company’s gross negligence led to her husband’s death.
During jury selection, jury consultant Rankin Fitch and his team communicate background information on each of the jurors to lead defense attorney Durwood Cable in the courtroom through electronic surveillance. But one of the jurors, Nick Easter, who is initially rejected is brought back in to the notice of Fitch and his team as he tries to get himself excused from jury duty. Judge Frederick Harkin decides to give Nick a lesson in civic duty and Fitch tells Cable that the judge has now given them no choice, and that he must select Nick as a juror. Nick uses his easy going and congenial manner to win over and influence several of the jurors with one exception. Marlee, who Nick is working with, contacts Fitch and Rohr: she will deliver the verdict to the first bidder.
What happens next is some brilliant planning and scheming by Marlee and Nick as they showcase their power and influence over the rest of the jurors by selecting a foreman and making the jurors do other things. itch orders Nick’s apartment searched, but finds nothing. Marlee retaliates by getting one of Fitch’s jurors bounced. Nick shows the judge surveillance footage of his apartment being searched, and the judge orders the jury sequestered. Fitch then goes after three jurors with blackmail, leading one, Rikki Coleman, to attempt suicide. Rohr loses a key witness due to harassment, and after confronting Fitch, decides that he cannot win the case. He asks his firm’s partners for $10 million. Fitch sends an operative, Janovich, to kidnap Marlee, but she fights him off and raises Fitch’s price to $15 million. On principle, Rohr changes his mind and refuses to pay. Fitch agrees to pay Marlee to be certain of the verdict.
One of Fitch’s men tracks down Nick’s real name and also Marlee’s hometown and meets her mother Nick is really Jeff Kerr, a law school drop-out, and that Marlee’s real name is Gabby Brandt. Gabby’s sister died in a school shooting. The town sued the gun manufacturer and Fitch helped the defense win the case. Doyle concludes that Nick and Marlee’s offer is a set-up, and he calls Fitch, but it is too late. The gun manufacturer is found liable, with the jury awarding $110 million in general damages to Celeste Wood. After the trial, Nick and Marlee confront Fitch with a receipt for the $15 million bribe and demand that he retire. They inform him that the $15 million will benefit the shooting victims in Gardner.
Though the plot is brilliant and the cast is very good, the shorter time for a movie makes the rather entertaining story from the book a little wasted in the movie. This happens quite a lot. I will give the movie a solid 7 outta 10!