20th Century Fox
Directed by Gary Fleder
Screenplay by Brian Koppelman, David Levien and Rick Cleveland,
based on the novel by John Grisham
Produced by Arnon Milchan, Gary Fleder and Christopher Mankiewicz
Starring John Cusack, Gene Hackman, Dustin Hoffman, Rachel
Weisz, Bruce Davison, Bruce McGill and Jeremy Piven
(out of 4)
Jury” is the type of political film that loses much of its
impact because of story contrivances and improbabilities. All of
the characters are not quite as fast or resourceful as they need
to be, and without believing in them, we can’t believe in
a cause, a scandal or a clever strategic move.
The cast and premise suggest potential for a much better film about
jury manipulation in the U.S. justice system. So it’s disappointing
when the film loses its way before the second half.
Gene Hackman plays Rankin Fitch, a jury “consultant”
who does in-depth investigating, spying and blackmail to make sure
that the jury goes for his clients. His current suit is one against
a gun company for knowingly setting up a system that allows guns
to be sold to criminals on the black market. He sets up a super
high-tech surveillance lab in an old warehouse in the French Quarter.
He uses the lab to help the gun company get away with dirty deeds.
We never hear from the gun company insider who plans to testify
(presumably we don’t see him since they couldn’t get
Russell Crowe to play the part), so all we really have to go on
is that witnesses disappear and that the gun people try to manipulate
the jury and advertise such qualities as being fingerprint-proof.
John Grisham’s original novel used the cigarette companies,
but the filmmakers changed it to a more controversial topic, presumably
to avoid comparisons to films like “The Insider.” This
film has no danger of being put in the same category.
Dustin Hoffman plays Wendall Rohr, the prosecuting attorney who
prides himself on standing up to the corporations. He currently
represents the widow of a businessman who was one of many victims
in an office shooting. A young jury consultant (Jeremy Piven) flies
in on his “own penny” because he believes in the case
and wants to counter Fitch’s techniques. Rohr is less cynical
and believes in the system.
But neither side is prepared for Nick Easter, played by John Cusack.
Pissing off the judge by telling him he needs to leave to make it
to a video game challenge, he’s actually a con man who’s
manipulating the jury while his girlfriend (Rachel Weisz) notifies
both attorneys and offers the verdict to the highest bidder.
The strategies of the two sides could have been much more interesting
than they are. Much time is wasted with apparent setups that don’t
pay off in the end. While the characters have to be intelligent
to do their deeds, they usually do inexplicably stupid things. If
people break into your house looking for something, but don’t
find it, maybe you should move that thing so that if the same people
break in again, they don’t come across it. It’s hard
to believe that the brilliant jury manipulators are also completely
It’s even more disappointing when the skilled actors create
characters who seem smart.
In their first motion picture collaboration, Hackman and Hoffman
have only one scene acting against each other. It’s an intense
scene that might not have too much content, but swarms with emotions.
Hoffman is the only one whose character is interesting throughout
the film because he doesn’t get involved in the ridiculous
elements that undermine an important issue.