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Saturday, 4 November 2017

Retro Review: Runaway Jury (2003) #Film4

Runaway Jury
Cast: John Cusack, Gene Hackman, Dustin Hoffman, Rachel Weisz, Jeremy Piven
Genre: Legal Thriller
Worldwide Box Office Gross: over $80 million 

Plot: A juror on the inside and a woman on the outside manipulate a court trial involving a major gun manufacturer 

'Solid, But Is Otherwise Underwhelming With The Under-Utilised Hoffman & Hackman' 

A paint- by- numbers affair by most accounts, Runaway Jury is a courtroom drama that in-between Gene Hackman and Dustin Hoffman's sparring rivalry and John Cusack and Rachel Weisz's minor entertaining and thrilling moments, it is a solid affair at best that underwhelms as a John Grisham onscreen adaptation of a novel and gives Hoffman practically little else to do in his role, despite being the so-called headliner alongside Cusack, Weisz and Hackman.

Wendell Rohr (Dustin Hoffman) is a lawyer representing a widower, whose husband fell victim to gun violence and he intends to take on the arms company that he holds to account for his death. The company is also in no rush in resorting to low-down dirty, backhanded & behind-the-scenes tactics. Yet both Wendell & Rankin (Gene Hackman) are surprised to learn that with 2 of the jurors (John Cusack & Rachel Weisz), they may hold crucial evidence which might act as the key to the outcome of the trial. 

It is run-of-the-mill as it gets and despite the little moments, the execution comes off as being limp and thus it far from makes the required impact one expects from a courtroom thriller. Especially one that is a John Grisham novel. Whereas The Client, The Pelican Brief and The Firm hit the ground running along with some zest thrown in, sadly no thanks to Gary Felder's direction, Runaway Jury barely scrapes the barrel. But for the opening scene, there are no real shocks, surprises and twists.

Besides a few chase sequences and scenes involving a couple of the jurors, which with the former is the hallmark of many of John Grisham movies based on novels, though at best Runaway Jury is passable and competent, in truth it is mediocre and Runaway Jury just wasn't good enough to say 'that was incredible'. I looked at the casting and I thought this is going to be amazing - but in the end, the film wasn't.

& the film makes a grave mistake by severely under-utilising Gene Hackman and moreso Dustin Hoffman's talents. The bathroom scene with Wendell squaring off against Rankin, and thus holding his own, was one of the few highlights, although in truth in Hackman, personally speaking, he had the meatier role compared to Hoffman. Hoffman just wasn't able to cause a ripple effect that this film truly needed and as likeable as Wendell Rohr is and was, this is not one of Hoffman's best roles, far from it. It's also a role that is far from challenging, but rather it feels more like a filler role. Yet had Hoffman's Wendell had been given more depth and that he had a much integral role to play in the film, it would do a huge service to his acting credentials. It's nowhere near or in the top 10/my favourite performances of his. It's disappointing when one reads that Hackman and Hoffman are in this movie and that what was initial excitement and anticipation of what one expects in some truly memorable legal rivalries, has been reduced to something that is throwaway and somewhat insignificant. Rachel Weisz's performance was all right, however, & John Cusack (who has never truly wowed me as an actor, despite enjoying his turn in Grosse Pointe Blank) was solid, yet okay. His character, however, was so one-note and a bore. 

I was also disappointed that the film took major liberties and instead of a tobacco firm, as it was in the book, we have an arms manufacturer in its place. 

Add to that an ending that underwhelms and greatly disappoints and in Runaway Jury, it turns out it never really went the full distance as a movie. 

Final Verdict:

Hoffman and Hackman deserved better and their performances didn't do justice to the half-hearted script. Although Hackman edges it over Hoffman & whilst it is enjoyable in parts, it never amounted to anything on a grand scale and one that is more hard-hitting than it comes across onscreen. 

For Hoffman and as a Dustin Hoffman movie itself, Runaway Jury is unfulfilling, as he isn't onscreen as often as one expects. 

It's not bad, but it's certainly a film I'd not come back to, all of the time and it struggles to provide any surmountable depth. 


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