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RUNAWAY JURY (article first published : 2004-04-11)

It takes a while to get going and most certainly is no Twelve Angry Men but Runaway Jury, directed by Gary Fleder who gave us Kiss the Girls and the excellent Things To Do In Denver when You're Dead, is a glossy and watchable courtroom drama.

And it does have the bonus of boasting acting giants in Dustin Hoffman and Gene Hackman.

Marking the third time Hackman has lent his talents to a film adaptation of a John Grisham novel - he was seen previously in The Firm and The Chamber - the drama focuses on Hoffman as Wendell Rohr, a liberal lawyer who hopes to make history by holding gun manufacturers responsible for a shooting.

His client is a woman widowed when munitions fell into criminal hands, leading to the shooting of her husband and others in his office.

However, Rohr, is not having an easy time seeking justice, as his opposition has hired a crack jury consultant, Rankin Fitch (Hackman) who is determined to swing the jury vote in favour of his clients. And he's not the only one manipulating the jury. Also swinging votes among the dozen jurors are conman Nick Easter (John Cusack) and his conniving girlfriend, Marlee (Rachel Weisz),who are jurors themselves.

Things improve when the pace picks up and performances are commendable without being exceptional. But this two-hour-plus film loses points for a preachy ending and for making so little of the talents of Jennifer (Flashdance) Beals and Luis Guzman, who have blink-and-you'll-miss-us roles as jurors. Rating 7/10. - Billy Suter




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