Runaway Jury

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Rating: PG-13

Starring:
John Cusack as Nicholas Easter
Gene Hackman as Rankin Fitch
Dustin Hoffman as Wendell Rohr
Rachel Weisz as Marlee
Bruce Davison as Durwood Cable
Bruce McGill as Judge Harkin
Jeremy Piven as Lawrence Green
Nick Searcy as Doyle
Stanley Anderson as Henry Jankle
Cliff Curtis as Frank Herrera
Nestor Serrano as Janovich
Leland Orser as Lamb
Jennifer Beals as Vanessa Lembeck
Gerry Bamman as Herman Grimes
Joanna Going as Celeste Wood
Bill Nunn as Lonnie Shaver
Juanita Jennings as Loreen Duke
Marguerite Moreau as Amanda Monroe
Nora Dunn as Stella Hulic
Orlando Jones as Russell

Special Features:
Commentary by director Gary Felder

Scene-specific commentary by Gene Hackman and Dustin Hoffman

Hackman & Hoffman Together – Exploring the Scene and Off the Cuff

Deleted scenes with optional commentary

Five featurettes: Making of, acting, cinematography, production design, editing

Theatrical trailer

Other Info:
Anamorphic Widescreen (2.35:1)
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound
French and Spanish Language Track
Running Time: 127 Minutes

Synopsis:
Runaway Jury is based on the novel by John Grisham.

After a shooting at an office in New Orleans, the widow of a slain executive sues the gun industry in an attempt to get them to regulate the sales of their own weapons. She hires attorney Wendell Rohr to represent her. Unfortunately, the gun industry has hired consultant Rankin Fitch to support their legal team. Fitch is a professional at picking jury members and reading psychological signs that tell if they will be sympathetic to the gun industry or not. With millions of dollars at stake, Fitch is willing to do anything to sway the jury in his favor.

However, he’s unable to predict a third party trying to influence the jury. Nicholas Easter is brought on as a jury member, but he has ulterior motives for being on the jury. He’s working for a mysterious woman named Marlee who intends to sway the jury on her own. Once she has them under her control, she intends to sell the jury to the highest bidder. But will Rohr compromise his values or will the deep pockets and treachery of Fitch buy the verdict?

Runaway Jury is rated PG-13 for violence, language and thematic elements.

The Movie:
I never read the book Runaway Jury, so I can’t tell you how the movie compares to the novel. I can say, though, that the film stands pretty well on its own as a drama (and occasional thriller). It ends up being an entertaining story.

The movie is very much pro-gun control. The good guys in this film are against guns while the evil guys are the gun manufacturers and anyone supporting the “right to bear arms”. Your stance on gun control may influence your thoughts on this film as it does get a bit preachy at times. I’m a bit middle-of-the-road on the subject, so the politics didn’t affect me one way or the other. In fact, I don’t think the characters in the movie ever made an effective argument for either side, so my political thinking wasn’t swayed by the story. However, the main focus of the movie is the tampering with the jury and the drama behind it, so in the end much of the politics are swept under the rug anyway. This is more of a movie about a con-game than a courtroom drama.

Needless to say, the acting in this movie is superb. Runaway Jury was heralded as the first time Gene Hackman and Dustin Hoffman have been on screen together. Both are fantastic in their roles and they only have a minimum number of scenes together. While those scenes may not live up to the hype of two screen legends acting together, they are still undeniably strong scenes for the characters. I’ve always liked John Cusack and his performance in this film is no exception. He’s cocky, manipulative, and you have no doubt that his character would be able to influence a whole jury. Rachel Weisz is also good as the mysterious Marlee. While her American accent wavers at times, she does a good job playing this tough character with a vulnerable side. All of these fine actors are supported by a great cast that includes Bruce Davison, Jeremy Piven, Bruce McGill, Dylan McDermott and even comedy favorites like Nora Dunn and Orlando Jones.

New Orleans serves as a nice, exotic backdrop for the film. Their politics are so weird down there that you can even forgive seemingly unrealistic depictions of the justice system. For all I know, they may actually do things the way they are shown in the movie.

Overall, Runaway Jury is a strong drama with some nice twists and turns that will keep you interested in the plot.

The Extras:
As you might expect, the extras on this DVD are very much focused on the teaming of Gene Hackman and Dustin Hoffman. Here are a few of the highlights on this DVD:

Commentary by director Gary Felder – Fleder offers an interesting commentary where he discusses alternate versions of the movie, thinking behind the setups of scenes, and more. He also discusses the movie for those who have already seen it and know the twist. With that knowledge, you can go back and hear about how they set it up. Overall it’s an interesting and informative commentary.

Scene-specific commentary by Gene Hackman and Dustin Hoffman – Dustin Hoffman provides a little commentary on the bathroom scene between himself and Hackman. The screen splits to show Hoffman talking on one part and the actual scene from the movie on the other. He talks about preparing for the scene, what it was like filming it, and other stuff. It’s not terribly long. Hackman is then shown giving commentary about the final scene in the movie. Also in split screen, we see him commenting on how the scene was framed, stuff that was going on in the background, and the thinking behind the character. For a brief commentary, it does go into some depth.

Hackman & Hoffman Together – Exploring the Scene and Off the Cuff – These two DVD extras feature Dustin Hoffman and Gene Hackman. The first is a 15 minute video where the two actors talk in-depth about the filming of the bathroom scene. You’ll see them rehearsing dialogue, flubbing lines, and talking about how they think about the characters. The “Off The Cuff” video shows Hoffman and Hackman talking about how they met so many years ago, their early careers, and more. They have some funny stories and fans of either actors will enjoy this.

Deleted scenes with optional commentary – There are only two deleted scenes included on the DVD. One shows Cusack’s character calling Rachel Weisz’s character and checking in with her. Another scene shows a member of the jury expressing suspicions that the jury is being paid. Neither of the scenes is missed from the film and their removal saves some of the surprises for later in the movie.

Five featurettes: Making of, acting, cinematography, production design, editing – These are your standard “making of” movies featuring behind the scenes footage, cast and crew interviews, and more. Broken up into these segments on acting, cinematography, editing, etc, they cover just about everything you could ask for on the making of the movie.

The Bottom Line:
Runaway Jury is a solid drama well worth checking out. Fans of Hackman, Hoffman, Cusack, and Weisz should really enjoy this one.

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