Great Grisham’s Ghost!
Film review by: Witney Seibold
There was a time in this country, I think around 1995, when one could not go outdoors without being struck in the head by a John Grisham novel. In fact, the airport newsstand and grocery store book-section industries would not be what they are today, were it not for Mr. Grisham. I have some literary experience with the man (well, I’ve read one of his many legal thrillers), so I can understand why seven films, a TV movie and two TV series have been exanguinated from his literary body: he writes for the screen. His books have the same sort of drama beats as a film, and his storytelling style is highly visual. Now we are treated with “Runaway Jury,” his latest, an interesting and well-told story with one of the best casts I’ve seen in many a moon.
“Runaway Jury” follows three opposing groups of legal eagles, as jury selection begins for a high-profile civil case against a gun manufacturer (gee, it is easy to get a gun, isn’t it?). The first is the gunmen’s wicked spin doctor (Gene Hackman) with an enclave of spy equipment he uses to whittle into every potential juror in order to ensure the verdict he wants. The second is the plaintiff’s lawyer (Dustin Hoffman), an ethical man who’s about to face some tough decisions. The third is the enigmatic Marlee (Rachel Weisz, you are beautiful), who seems to be manipulating the jury with the assistance of one of the jurors (John Cusack), for reasons unrevealed.
It’s a rather complicated setup, I know, but what pleased me so much about this film was how clear it all was. There are over a dozen characters that we must follow, and we have a thumb on all of them. The double-crossings and bribes and unspoken plots are all crisply drawn out, and cogent. The film could have been a large, mushy traffic jam, but was handled well enough that we could see what was going on. Surprising from director Gary Fleder, maker of the truly awful “Impostor.”
A good cast deserves a second mention: Jeremy Piven, Jennifer Beals, Luis Guzmán, Dylan McDermott, Nora Dunn, Orlando Jones, Joanna Going, and Bruce Davison appear. Wow. There was also a character, I must mention, named Lydia Deets, Wynona Ryder’s character from “Beetlejuice.”