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RUNAWAY JURY

All movie juries are fixed, and that adds an element of irony to Gary Flederís efficient adaptation of the John Grisham bestseller about interested parties trying to fix a jury in a high-profile suit against a gun manufacturer. Practically curling his moustache with villainy is Gene Hackman as "jury consultant" Rankin Fitch, whoís been hired to influence the decision by his usual combination of bribery, extortion, and high-tech surveillance. Opposing him with a bad suit and a Southern accent is Dustin Hoffman as Wendall Rohr, a slicker version of Atticus Finch brought in to get justice and a $110 million settlement for a woman widowed by the defendantís product.

As far as the courtroom oratory goes, the gun-control side wins hands down, but the actual case is up for grabs, especially when John Cusackís Nick Easter, a jury member, offers to spin his colleagues in favor of the highest bidder. Rachel Weisz is winsome and tough and displays unlikely martial-arts prowess as Johnís accomplice, and the New Orleans locale offers zesty if irrelevant atmosphere. But the first screen pairing of Hoffman and Hackman doesnít amount to much (Hackman spends most of his time off-site watching a monitor and sputtering, "Curses! Foiled again!"), and instead of demonstrating how money manipulates the legal system, this is more a failed exercise in how the movies manipulate an audience.


Issue Date: October 17 - 23, 2003
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