Political Film Society - Runaway Jury

PFS Film Review
Runaway Jury


Runaway JuryEarly in Runaway Jury, we are told that 30,000 Americans die and 100,000 are injured each year by guns, statistics that do not stop the National Rifle Association from serving as the public relations front for an industry that rakes in $2 billion each year. Directed by Gary Fleder and based on the novel by John Grisham that targeted Big Tobacco, the film begins with the deaths of eleven members of a firm by a disgruntled former employee who used an automatic weapon that was purchased with questionable legality. Two years later, a widow, Vanessa Lembeck (played by Jennifer Beals), decides to sue the manufacturer of the weapon, Vicksburg. The attorney for the plaintiff is Wendell Rohr (played by Dustin Hoffman), and the gun company's attorney is Durwood Cable (played by Bruce Davison). Since a victory for the plaintiff could easily lead to other suits, eventually bankrupting firearms manufacturers, Vicksburg hires Rankin Fitch (played by Gene Hackman) to fix the jury. However, one juror, Nick Easter (played by John Cusack), is in league with his longtime girlfriend, Marlee (played by Rachel Weisz), who arranges to inform both attorneys that the jury is for sale. With clever interpersonal skills, Easter develops his role to be in a position to sway the jury, and Runaway Jury is quite insightful in revealing how jurors interact. Meanwhile Marlee contacts both lawyers, demanding a nonnegotiable $10 million (later $15 million) as the price for fixing the outcome of the jury's deliberations. By the time the film ends, one side has indeed swallowed the bait and paid the price. Why Marlee and Nick seek to profit from jury tampering, which they pulled off before in other towns, is also revealed in the otherwise predictable ending. The Political Film Society has nominated Runaway Jury for best film on democracy and best film exposé not only for trotting forth the statistics about gun-related deaths in a sleeker manner than Bowling for Columbine (2002) but also for demonstrating that there is a science to jury selection and even jury tampering. Ominously, the film's tagline is that "Trials are too important to be decided by juries." However, the film appears to challenge investigative reporters to find out whether the NRA may have been financing pro-gun films, such as the recent Open Range. That challenge remains. MH

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Runaway Jury
by John Grisham

Millions of dollars are at stake in a huge tobacco-company case in Biloxi, and the jury's packed with people who have dirty little secrets. A mysterious young man takes subtle control of the jury as the defense watches helplessly, but they soon realize that he in turn is controlled by an even more mysterious young woman. Lives careen off course as they bend everyone in the case to their will.