Runaway Jury Gary Fleder

Runaway Jury Gary Fleder
The film franchise for novelist John Grisham has turned out to be a fairly reliable one (unlike, say, Stephen King); adaptations of his criminal justice books regularly attract A-list stars and good directors for a dose of courtroom shenanigans. But Runaway Jury suffers a bit from Grisham expectations (starting with the title), since this is hardly a courtroom drama but rather the story of an elaborate con game that happens to involve the manipulation of a jury in a gun case. It also gets overwhelmed by two of its participants (Gene Hackman and Dustin Hoffman), on screen together for the first time in their long careers after nearly 50 years of friendship. The film concerns a jury consultant (Hackman), a defence lawyer (Hoffman), a jury member (John Cusack) and a woman (Rachel Weisz) who claims to be able to deliver a verdict to the highest bidder. Like most Grisham books on film, Runaway Jury clicks along its narrative track at a good clip, hitting the plot points and appropriately trotting the story through its paces. But the film's promotion, and even its DVD extras, are still hung up on this idea of getting Hackman and Hoffman together on screen — which happens only once, in a bathroom of all things. This emphasis in the end detracts from what should be the driving motivation for the film; in the middle of all the "acting," it's easy to forget that there's a movie going on as well. A pretty good movie, too. For fans of Hackman and Hoffman, the DVD delivers, including rehearsal footage and casual interviews where the pair talk about their relationship of long-standing and offer critiques of their favourite work. Deleted scenes and small production featurettes are overshadowed by the Hackman and Hoffman show, as it seems the film was as well — director Gary Fleder (Kiss the Girls) reveals that more time was spent honing the bathroom scene than almost any other. It's too bad that the great John Cusack and an entertaining tale about jury manipulation get lost along the way. Plus: commentary, featurettes on acting, making of, cinematography, production design, editing. (Fox)