Legal thriller isn't aimed at kids.
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A Lot or a Little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this is really not a kid movie subject-wise unless they're already fans of John Grisham. It has some violent and very tense moments, opening with a tragic shooting (off-camera) and describing another. The movie's theme is gun control. There's a violent video game. Characters smoke and drink (one has a drinking problem) and use strong language. A character attempts suicide. Many of the characters in the movie are ruthless and unethical.
A Well-Made Thriller...
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Alright movie for adults, but only if you are an anti-gun activist.
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What's the Story?
RUNAWAY JURY follows a groundbreaking lawsuit in the widow of a man shot and killed by his distraught co-worker sues the gun manufacturer for bearing some responsibility because it made it too easy for a disturbed person to buy and use a gun. If the jury finds the manufacturer liable in this case, it will open the door countless other lawsuits. It could bankrupt the industry. The gun manufacturers contribute millions to make the defense team, and also in jury selection. Rankin Fitch (Gene Hackman) and his staff use everything from high-tech databanks to low-tech surveillance to investigate potential jurors. Fitch also uses blackmail to ensure his clients get off the hook. The plaintiff's counsel, Wendell Rohr (Dustin Hoffman), retains a jury consultant, too. But someone else has gone a step further. Nick (John Cusack) has managed to get himself onto the jury. Both sides hear from Marlee (Rachel Weisz), who tells them that controls the jury and will sell the outcome for $10 million. Marlee proves to Fitch and Rohr that her contact can persuade the other jurors. Are they willing to bet on old-fashioned ideals like evidence and justice?
Is It Any Good?
John Grisham's courtroom thriller is given the big-time Hollywood treatment and the result is as reliably entertaining -- but also as forgettable -- as an airplane novel. This is the kind of story that benefits from the willing suspension of disbelief (and logic). As much fun as it is to see Oscar-winners Gene Hackman and Dustin Hoffman square off against each other, they overpower the material. Star power in even the smaller roles provides more distraction than support. This movie could have worked better with a made-for-tv-movie level cast more suitable to its potboiler sensibility.
The drama does not come from what happens in the courtroom but what happens outside it. That leaves room for lots of intrigue and Grisham knows how to hold the attention of the audience. But the conclusion feels too easy, not earned by the way the issues have been presented throughout the movie or even the powerhouse performances. Like the insider on the jury, Grisham is a facile manipulator. But audiences are likely to be a little less willing to go along with it than the other jurors -- unless they're watching it in the same low-brain-cell-output locations the book is most often read -- on an airplane or at the beach.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about gun control, video games, alcoholism -- there's lots to discuss. Of particular interest would be any jury duty experiences and how they compare to the movie's (exaggerated) depiction of the corruption of the jury system.
- In theaters: October 17, 2003
- On DVD or streaming: February 17, 2004
- Cast: Dustin Hoffman, Gene Hackman, John Cusack
- Director: Gary Fleder
- Studio: Twentieth Century Fox
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 127 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: violence, language and thematic elements
- Last updated: March 7, 2023
Our Editors Recommend
Plucky, terrorized boy at heart of legal thriller.
Grisham thriller has lots of twists, turns but is overlong.
The Pelican Brief
Tense Grisham-based thriller is well cast but talky.
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