Copyright © 2003 by
Jury starts out with some crazy shooting up a brokerage office.
The rest of the film is about a lawsuit against the gun
manufacturers. We never see the crazy guy who did the killing.
Apparently heís not responsible for what he did.
No, the gun manufacturers are.
And, boy, are they bad people, at least according to this film.
the main problem with this film. In
the 20th Century, thrillers were populated by people
Generally Recognized As Bad (GRAB).
No explanations were needed because audiences knew that these
were the bad guys. For
example, Nazis were GRAB. Foreign spies and Monsters and serial killers
were all GRAB. If itís
someone who doesnít belong to a group thatís GRAB, then they do
something in the film that qualifies them, like killing or raping or
kidnapping someone. But in Runaway Jury the bad guys are gun
manufacturers. Did I miss something?
Has this issued been settled?
Are all gun manufacturers now GRAB?
I donít think so. Gun control is a controversial issue with reasonable people
holding strong opinions on both sides.
Since when should a Hollywood film, with all its power, determine
that all gun manufacturers are bad?
But thatís what Runaway Jury ordains.
The gun manufacturers do nothing here to establish that they are
bad guys. Theyíre just
there. And they are bad. Case closed.
wasnít just some Hollywood filmmaker trying to be faithful to the
author of the book.
John Grishamís novel was about tobacco, not guns, certainly a
more fitting target.
By now tobacco makers can arguably qualify as GRAB.
Changing the bad guys from tobacco makers to gun manufacturers
was apparently Producer-Director Gary Flederís decision in order to
make a political point at the risk of entertainment and honesty.
As to the film
itself, talk about science fiction!
Weíre supposed to buy the idea that a guy named Rankin Fitch
(Gene Hackman) is a jury consultant who has a secret safe room full of
computers and TV monitors with cameras trained on everything, including
the courtroom and that he can control the lawyer, in this case Durwood
Cable (Bruce Davison) who is a wussy lawyer if there ever was one.
He not only looks like Howdy Doody, he acts like him, jumping
whenever Fitch pulls a string. Oh, yeah, Fitch has brutal murderers at his command who will
do his bidding at the snap of his finger.
opposed by attorney Wendall Rohr (Dustin Hoffman, who finally thought he
had found a good film in which to act after a long string of turkeys;
sorry, Dustin, wrong again), who brought a suit representing the widow
of one of the guys killed. But
she doesnít want money. No,
sheís altruistic (big surprise!).
She wants those horrible gun firms to stop making those guns that
kill people. And
Wendallís honorable, too. Heís
not in it for the money, either, and, boy is he incorruptible.
Heís got his jury consultant, too (against his better
instincts), Lawrence Green (Jeremy Piven). But, golly, shucks, heís a
good, clean-cut guy who would never dream of stooping to the depths to
which Fitch dips representing those bad guy gun manufacturers.
The plot, as
if Fleder really cared, is that Nick Easter (John Cusack) gets on the
jury and he and his girl friend, Marlee (Rachel Weisz) are trying to get
money out of Fitch and Rohr to swing the jury their way.
which does hold your interest because you do want to see whatís going
to happen, is sheer rubbish. I am first in line to parrot the moral corruption of our
system of civil justice. But
the corruption is due to avaricious, dishonest, incompetent attorneys,
and lazy, biased judges (who came from the system, so play the game),
and laws passed by State Legislatures manned, mostly, by attorneys, who
make civil litigation enormously expensive for the litigant and
financially rewarding for all attorneys, win or lose, not the organized
corruption of the jury system we see here.
The point of
this movie really isnít that the jury system might possibly be
corruptible, or that our system of civil justice stinks.
Itís that the people responsible for victims getting shot are
not the people who do the shooting; itís the people who manufacture
the guns. Thatís it in a
If I want to
be exposed to the left wing point of view I can watch the nightly network news reports
of Brokaw, Rather, and Jennings. If I want to be exposed to the right wing I can turn on Fox
News or talk radio. When
I go to the movies, I want to leave all that behind me and just be
entertained. Watching Runaway
Jury is like watching CNN for two hours.
Thereís not a hint of even-handedness.
I rate this
slightly better than average because itís a pretty good thriller and
Iím a big fan of Gene Hackman, who contributes his standard,
professional, entertaining, performance. Weisz also gives a good performance. Itís just the attitude that greatly detracts from it.
Iím not taking a position on gun control here.
Whether youíre for it or against it, making a thriller that
assumes everyone accepts a controversial political point of view is an
abdication of professional responsibility of the filmmakers.
Itís not as if itís a given that gun manufacturers are bad
people to be equated with Nazis. There
is a legitimate debate on this point.
Who is a Director, with all the power that a Hollywood film
brings to the table behind him, to take a controversial position and
foist it on his audience as a given? Itís gotten to the point that
Jack Valenti should come out with some additional ratings: RW (right
wing), LW (left wing), and PN (politically neutral) so that audiences
can know what theyíre getting themselves into before they shell out
their dough. Although,
letís face it, in todayís Hollywood there wouldnít be many RW