Runaway Jury is one of my favorite John Grisham novels.
It has proven quite prescient and its plot about suing the tobacco companies
and winning has already happened in real life. So,
the plot for the movie has been changed to be more current. In the movie
version of Runaway Jury, the widow (Joanna Going) of a man (Dylan
McDermott) killed when one of his co-workers went postal is suing the company
that made the gun. Her lawyer (Dustin Hoffman) is in danger of being outgunned
(so to speak) by the defence team aided by a nefarious jury consultant (Gene
Hackman). What neither of them knows at first, is that one of the jurors
(John Cusack) is intent on tampering with the rest of the jurors to get the
verdict he wants. He has a partner on the outside (Rachel Weisz). Hackman
was already intent on tampering with the jury but Wiesz begins an auction
between the Hoffman and Hackman over which way she and Cusack will push the
It's hard to believe but this is the first time that Dustin Hoffman and Gene Hackman have appeared in a movie together. They have been friends since the mid-Sixties when they and their friend, Robert Duvall, were all struggling actors in New York City. Anyway, it was worth the wait. Hoffman and Hackman are great as usual and watching them riff off each other on the screen is a lot of fun. The only weird thing is that Hoffman's southern accent oftens sounds uncannily like his female persona in Tootsie. The other two actors, Cusack and Weisz, are definitely up to the task of acting with these heavyweights. Cusack is one of my favs. He is always good. And Weisz has been showing (Enemy at the Gates, About a Boy) that just because she appeared in The Mummy doesn't mean she can't act.
This is one of those movies that has a large supporting cast, lawyers, judge, jury, witnesses and they all look familiar. So, if you like picking out familiar faces in the crowd like I do, then you will see Bruce McGill (Matchstick Men) as the Judge, Bruce Davison (X2) as the lead defence lawyer, Nick Searcy (Cast Away) as one of Hackman's henchmen, and on the jury, Jennifer Beals (Flashdance), Cliff Curtis (Whale Rider), Nora Dunn (Saturday Night Live) and Bill Nunn (Regarding Henry). Finally, Jeremy Piven appears as the jury consultant for the plaintifs. He is a lifelong friend of John Cusack and they have appeared in ten movies together including Serendipity and Grosse Point Blank.
The combination of a really good plot with an amazing cast makes Runaway Jury a very watchable thriller. There are lots of nice outdoor scenes shot on the streets of the French Quarter in New Orleans. Another Grisham film, The Pelican Brief, was also set there. The action is snappy, perhaps since the director, Gary Fleder, has done mostly TV shows. The story moves right along and the tension rises up to the final climax. You may be able to figure out the ending, and there's no doubt who the good guys and bad guys are, but Runaway Jury is a joy to watch.