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Hackman headlines stellar cast in engaging film

Sarah Vabulas | Tuesday, November 4, 2003

Imagine yourself sitting on a jury, evaluating and deciding the fate for another human – or, in the case of the film based on John Grisham’s bestselling novel, The Runaway Jury, you must decide whether a gun production company is at fault for an office shooting.

What would you do to influence other people?

Runaway Jury features an all-star cast to round off a great plot line. When a promising businessman (Dylan McDermott) is murdered during an office rampage, his widow hires Louisiana lawyer Wendell Rohr (Dustin Hoffman, with little to do) to take on the gun manufacturer who supplied the weapon in the first place. Looking to buy its way out of a huge settlement, the gun corporation hires a shady character named Rankin Fitch (Gene Hackman) to sway the verdict their way by manipulating the jury. When Nicholas Easter (John Cusack) is selected to serve on the jury, Fitch and Rohr soon learn that Easter is engaged in his own jury tampering, with the help of a mysterious outside source (Rachel Weisz).

Runaway Jury takes moviegoers back into John Grisham’s thrilling ups and downs of the lives inside a conservative southern courtroom. All the favorites from Grisham’s novels can be found in this intriguing and engaging film: the cartoony villains, the easily swayed hand of justice, chases, intrigue and the nicest, most honest lawyers that seem to only exist in print or in the movies.

The film is one of the better Grisham adaptations from novel to the big screen. It is light and keeps audiences on their toes, much like The Rainmaker and The Pelican Brief. The film arms itself with a terrific cast and a willingness to keep the momentum going.

In adapting this book for the screen, the biggest change is the reason for the trial. In Grisham’s book, it was a suit against a big tobacco corporation.

The film hinges on the issue of gun control, taking on a very topical subject that provides urgency where a trial about tobacco could not provide. This urgency pushes the movie along and adds much to the plot, keeping audiences on the edge of their seats for what might happen next.

Hackman beautifully stars as the manipulative man of the movie, coupled with the high levels of enthusiasm for the role. Hackman dominates the screen during his scenes and convinces the audience of not only the reality of the situation, but also the urgency involved in this controversial court case.

At the conclusion of the movie, as I surveyed the audience, all I could see was the nervousness in their faces as the verdict was about to be delivered. After all the blackmail and bribery throughout the entirety of the plot, the verdict was unpredictable and a sigh of relief was felt after it came out.

This movie was full of thrills, twists and turns. It provided two hours of thought-provoking entertainment. If you are at all into court cases or John Grisham, be sure to see Runaway Jury.

Contact Sarah Vabulas at vabu4547@saintmarys.edu