Summary of the Movie "Runaway Jury"

by David Harris

"Runaway Jury" is a dramatic thriller that was released in October 2003. The film was based on the John Grisham novel of the same name. Directed by Gary Fleder, "Runaway Jury" stars John Cusack, Rachel Weisz and Hollywood heavyweights Gene Hackman and Dustin Hoffman.

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The Case

The film opens in New Orleans, where a disgruntled day trader kills himself and a handful of his co-workers, including the husband of Celeste Wood (Joanna Going). With the help of attorney Wendell Rohr (Dustin Hoffman), Celeste initiates a suit against the gun's manufacturer. As the trial begins, lead attorney Durwood Cable (Bruce Davison) hires Rankin Fitch (Gene Hackman), an expert jury consultant. Fitch does everything but play by the book.

Reluctant Juror

Fitch illegally communicates with Cable during jury selection, but Cable is forced to allow reluctant juror Nicholas Easter (John Cusack), a video game store clerk, to remain on the panel since he has run out of jury challenges. As the congenial Easter makes friends with the rest of the jurors, he offers to hand Fitch the decision he wants for a price. He proves that he can control the jurors by leading them in a recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance.

Playing Both Sides

Meanwhile, Easter's girlfriend Marlee (Rachel Weisz) makes the same offer to Rohr, but Fitch pays them $15 million to deliver the verdict. Once the money is sent, Fitch learns that Easter is a law-school dropout who has been tailing gun cases. Marlee's sister was killed in a school shooting years before, and Easter's town took the gun manufacturer to court. The gun company hired Fitch to consult on the case, and he helped them bankrupt Easter's town. As the movie closes, the jury, under Easter's guidance, finds the gun manufacturer guilty and awards a large sum to Celeste Wood. Easter and Marlee also force Fitch to retire, using the receipt of his payoff as blackmail.

Reception

"Runaway Jury" earned $49.4 million and garnered generally positive critical reviews. Critics called its premise implausible but found the movie very entertaining. According to critic Richard Roeper from "At the Movies with Ebert & Roeper," this film ranks just below "The Firm" and "The Client" as the best adaptations of John Grisham novels. Not everyone loved the film: Rex Reed of the "New York Observer" considered it incoherent and illogical.

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