Directed by Gary Fleder, starring John Cusack, Gene Hackman, Dustin Hoffman, Rachel Weisz, Bruce Davison and Jeremy Piven.
When a sacked broker shoots his former co-workers, the widow of one victim (an uncredited Dylan McDermott) brings a massive civil suit against the gun manufacturers. Representing her is the idealistic Wendell Rohr (Hoffman), seeking to make legal history by winning an action against an arms corporation. Pulling all the strings for the defence is Rankin Fitch (Hackman), a jury consultant out to make sure that his clients get the panel of twelve they want. And playing both ends against the middle is Nicholas Easter (Cusack), the last-minute addition to the jury who, with his accomplice outside the courtroom (Weisz), is offering to swing the verdict - for $10m.
John Grisham's thrillers have been described as the perfect books to read on holidays and if that's so, then their big screen makeovers are the perfect films to watch on the plane. Doze off or find the conversation worth the effort on the other side of the armrest and it's usually easy enough to get back into the story. And in the case of 'Runaway Jury' you'll have the twist figured out long before the verdict's in.
Director Gary Fleder's debut was 'Things to Do in Denver When You're Dead', a fast-talking gangster film that heralded a new talent worth watching. Since then, however, he's ended up directing 'Kiss the Girls', 'Don't Say a Word' and now this, a film that fails to make full use of a great cast and will leave many hankering for the higher quality hi-jinks of 'The Firm' and 'The Pelican Brief'.
The prospect of seeing Hackman and Hoffman's characters square up to each other would have even those who give the widest berth to legal movies willing to make an exception. But here their big scene comes in a bathroom with Fleder then flushing the prospect of more face-offs down the toilet. You can accept a far-fetched plot (in the book it's someone suing a tobacco company), a jury that's as pliable as a stick of liquorice and the 'what-ifs' piling up like the people in the PlayStation ad, but a director who doesn't make the best of his actors is a lot harder to deal with.
Trimming down the action sequences and devoting more time to character and courtroom would've made this ludicrous but still watchable caper a far better film. A guilty pleasure for some, a waste of time for most.