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20th Anniversary Rewatch Movie Review – Runaway Jury

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I’ve said elsewhere that Runaway Jury is one of my go to, no think, easy watch options. Given that it will be twenty years old this year, I thought I’d better have a go at explaining why I enjoy it so much. I suppose it has to be the combination of a great cast and a cracking story. Let’s face it, that is always a award winning combination so it should be a winner. I have always had a predilection for clever courtroom stories. I was brought up on Crown Court and Rumple Of The Bailey. Maybe I occasionally like getting my thrills due to verbal rather than physical jousting.

First off, the story came from John Grisham. Those of you living under a rock may not know that, before becoming a best selling author, Grisham was a lawyer. As a result he should know his way around a court case. Then there is the cast. I have loved Dustin Hoffman for years; he can do comedy, drama, thrillers, anything. I also find John Cusack fascinating. He crashed into my consciousness in the late nineties; Grosse Pointe Blank, Con Air, and Midnight In The Garden Of Good And Evil all had me fascinated for very different reasons.

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Trials Are Too Important To Be Left Up To Juries

But, as is often the way of the cinematic world, Runaway Jury could have been very, very different. The original choice for director was Joel Schumacher due, mainly, to John Grisham liking the way that Schumacher had handled two of his other books, A Time To Kill and The Client. This version had Edward Norton lined up to play Nick Easter, Gwyneth Paltrow to play Marlee, and Sean Connery as Rankin Fitch. As is also the way of the cinematic world, development hell loomed and everybody went off to do other things.

Next up saw Mike Newell as director with Will Smith as Nick Easter and Jennifer Connelly as Marlee. Once again things didn’t fall into place and everyone went off to do other projects. Another change came with the story itself. In the original novel, the company being sued is a tobacco company after a husband dies of lung cancer. However, 1999 saw the release of The Insider which dealt with an exposé of the tobacco industry. As a result the subject under review was switched to the gun industry and the triggering incident was a random mass shooting. Anyway, I think the number of active smokers has dropped since the book was written.

Anybody Can Be Gotten To

But all those are relegated to the “what might have been” zone. What we have is what we’ve got.  We have Gary Fleder as director, John Cusack as Nick Easter, Rachel Weisz as Marlee, Gene Hackman as Rankin Fitch, and Dustin Hoffman as Wendell Rohr. The story surrounds the very dubious practice of jury selection to influence the outcome of a trial. In fact it goes as far as jury tampering because they keep using dirty tricks to influence the jury after selection. Obviously all the excitement comes from the nefarious methods used.

One other little point to make…about an hour and twenty five minutes into the film, there is a scene in a lavatory when Rankin Fitch  (the jury “consultant” acting on behalf to the gun lobby) meets Wendell Rohr (the attorney prosecuting the gun companies). Fitch looks up and sees Rohr and says “Wendell Rohr. An overdue pleasure.” Why is this scene special? Well, Gene Hackman and Dustin Hoffman have been friends since 1956 but this is the first time that they were in a film together! When they were classmates at the Pasadena Playhouse they were both voted “Least Likely to Succeed”! Ah well!

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