Based on John Grisham’s novel, this suspenseful courtroom drama, set in New Orleans, covers a high-profile civil suit against a gun manufacturer. The plaintiff is the widow of a business executive gunned down in his office. To ensure success, the defendants hire the ruthless Rankin Fitch (Gene Hackman) as a jury consultant. Fitch’s sophisticated, clandestine research team supplies defense attorneys with inside information about each prospective juror. And during jury selection, the attorneys are secretly wired instructions from Fitch. One juror, Nicholas Easter (John Cusack), has no history and appears to be nothing more than a lazy smart aleck. But he becomes more of a threat when his partner, Marlee (Rachel Weisz), makes anonymous phone calls to Fitch and the plaintiff’s attorney, Wendall Rohr (Dustin Hoffman), offering to swing the verdict to whichever side pays their price. A four-star cast, suspense and humor make Runaway Jury a likely crowd pleaser, especially for adults.
The film’s controversial theme is gun control, although Grisham’s novel focused on the tobacco industry. Nicholas and Marlee, passionate for justice, use blackmail and deceit to manipulate the jury. The most disappointing factor is a healthy dose of offensive language that does nothing to advance the plot or explain the characters.