‘Runaway Jury’ reveals vulnerability of jury process

Helen Harrington

“Runaway Jury,” in theaters now from 20th Century Fox, is an adaptation of the book by the suspense author and real-life lawyer John Grisham. This film stars veteran actors John Cusack, Gene Hackman, Dustin Hoffman, Rachel Weisz, and Jennifer Beals, of 1983’s “Flashdance.”

When a businessman (Dylan McDermott), is murdered during an office shooting spree, his widow hires famed Louisiana lawyer Wendell Rohr (Hoffman) to take on the gun manufacturer who made the gun in the first place, which then fell into criminal hands. The gun corporation decides to try to buy their way out of what could possibly be a huge settlement by hiring a shady and unsavory character named Rakin Fitch, played by Hackman. He will stop at nothing to ensure that the gun manufacturer gets their desired verdict.

Unbeknownst to them, the case contains an interesting twist. Nicholas Easter (Cusak), one of the jurors, is cleverly focused on manipulating the jury to his own way of thinking, with the aid of a mysterious woman working from outside the courtroom scene (Weisz). He uses his ability to manipulate to taunt and toy with Fitch and the gun manufacturer.

“Runaway Jury” exposes the vulnerability of the whole jury process and reveals lawyers and jurors as being dishonest and serving in their own self-interests. Each side hires a team to psychoanalyze all of the potential jurors to figure out which ones are more likely to vote in their favor. What they don’t expect is that one juror, Easter, who actually manipulates the lawyers by actually selling them a verdict.

Easter proves his skills in various ways throughout the movie to try to convince the lawyers that he is capable of pulling off such a task. Helped by his girlfriend outside of the jury (Weisz), this legal thriller will be sure to grab and entertain.

The movie stayed true to the book; except that in the book the lawsuit was against “Big Tobacco.” Readers of Grisham will not be disappointed while seeing this suspenseful flick. It has much more in common with other engaging Grisham adaptations such as “Pelican Brief” and “The Rainmaker” than heavy clunkers like “The Chamber.” The film boasts an exceptional cast, with Cusack and Hackman being the standouts of the lot. Their performances are riveting at times, and never boring. Overall, I give “Runaway Jury” two thumbs up.