Runaway Jury (2003)

(In theaters, October 2003) It doesn’t take much to make me happy at the movies, and this film has it all; a well-told plot, plenty of drama and action, taut pacing, good characters, a superb cast, interesting direction and top-notch editing. It’s adapted from John Grisham’s good novel, and “adapted” is the word; substantial changes made to the storyline end up delivering a better, more interesting plot. The cast is filled with great actors, from John Cusak to Rachel Weisz (woo!) to Gene Hackman to Dustin Hoffman: All of them have their standout moments. Particular props must go to director Gary Fleder, whose snappy style allows the film to steamroll any objection through sheer momentum. It’s rare enough to see a legal thriller so confidently helmed that it’s an extra-pleasing surprise to find out that Runaway Jury is actually quite good indeed. Only the ending sort of peters out, with a rather obvious revelation being dropped with the sound of a splat and a too-touching moment that distract from an otherwise quite cynical film. It’s not a masterpiece, but it’s a rare example of slick escapist entertainment, a completely successful attempt at suspense with none-too-obvious elements.

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