Runaway Jury



Legal thriller isn't aimed at kids.
  • Review Date: February 12, 2004
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2003
  • Running Time: 127 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages
Not applicable

Theme of gun violence. Characters in peril.


Non-explicit sexual situation, reference to adultery and abortion.


Some strong language.

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Characters drink and smoke.

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.

Kids say

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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.

Families can talk 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.

Movie details

Theatrical release date:October 17, 2003
DVD release date:February 17, 2004
Cast:Dustin Hoffman, Gene Hackman, John Cusack
Director:Gary Fleder
Studio:Twentieth Century Fox
Run time:127 minutes
MPAA rating:PG-13
MPAA explanation:violence, language and thematic elements

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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What parents and kids say

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Teen, 17 years old Written byKoOkYMoNsTa234 April 9, 2008


RUNAWAY JURY was booooooring as heck. The novel is much better in my opinion and will not interest anyone under the age of 30. Rachel Weisz acts well and so does John Cusack so I guess that gives it one * star.
Teen, 15 years old Written byShinjo April 9, 2008

This movie was ok, but a bit boring

This movie was alright, and it did show how courtrooms work and exactly what juries do, but it was also a bit boring. Also, people threatened each other in this movie a lot and it's not good for kids to see that. It's a fine movie for kids ages 11+.
Parent of a 14 year old Written byTsion November 21, 2009

A Well-Made Thriller...

RUNAWAY JURY is exactly the movie it sets out to be. Nothing less, nothing more. It promises you an engaging legal thriller, and it delivers on all acounts. It is by no means disappointing, but certainly not awesome. It just is. And it is very satisfying. However, there is plenty of material that is iffy for kids, starting with the messages. All of the characters in the film save one are unethical and break the law often. The whole plot of the film centers around a criminal plot by two competing parties to stack, bribe, and threaten a jury of 12 to recieve a swung verdict. The plot is intense, but not action-packed, and it might be confusing for some kids. In the end, the good guys win, but the criminals aren't punished. Two of them are made to look like heroes. Aside from that, there are a couple of violent scenes, starting with a shooting that opens the film. It isn't graphic, but the camera and sound make it realistic and intense. A woman attempts suicide by pills after a blackmail. A man fights a woman and beats her up pretty badly (some blood), but then she stabs him in the leg and runs. Language is mild ("h*ll", a few "SOBs") until the end, when a man lets loose a "f**k" in the middle of a heated argument. There is one brief sexual situation (kissing in bed, no nudity), but it isn't graphic.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much swearing


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