I Saw That!

One woman's opinions about popular entertainment.

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Location: Chicago, Illinois, United States

Amateur boxing coach, Christian (but not so heavenly-minded that I'm no earthly good) singer, writer, self-defense advocate, childfree. feminist www.smartwomenboxingtraining.org

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Runaway Jury (2003)

Footage of a child's birthday party is juxtaposed with scenes of the child's dad, Jacob Woods (Dylan McDermott), arriving at his office. It is a typical Monday morning. Suddenly, gunshots boom throughout the office amid screams of the staff. Woods makes a wrong move and loses his life.

The story then picks up two years later. Celeste (Joanna Woods), Jacob's widow, has retained the services of attorney Wendell Rohr (Dustin Hoffman). She is suing the gun company that manufactured the weapon that the gunman used on her husband. The gun company has their lawyer, Durwood Cable (Bruce Davidson), of course. But they've also retained the services of a slick jury consultant, Rankin Fitch (Gene Hackman). The gun merchants want to make sure the verdict turns out in their favor. If Celeste wins, it'll mean all gun companies will be open to being penalized when their products are used in crimes. Fitch's job is to assure the right jurors are sitting on the trail, and he's not above using trickery to make that happen.

Fitch and his staff don't have high hopes for Nicholas Easter (John Cusack), because they don't think he's going to help the gun merchants' cause. Easter is choosen anyway, and it soon becomes apparent that he planned it that way. He's working with his girlfriend Marlee (Rachel Weisz), who tells both Rohr and Fitch that she can swing the jury their way -- for a price. We know Rohr and Fitch's agendas. But what do Easter and Marlee hope to gain from jury tampering?

A good main cast, peppered with actors in smaller, but no less important roles, makes for a tight film that focuses on a hot button issue. Hackman has always been very good at playing underhanded, sneaky men who don't give a damn about who they bulldoze to move ahead. Hoffman plays his role as a Southern gentleman (the film takes place in New Orleans) with principles. Cusack and Weisz keep the audience guessing about their true motives up to the end.

Jeremy Piven ("Entourage") plays a jury consultant on Rohr's side. Nora Dunn ("Saturday Night Live"), Jennifer Beals (Flashdance, 1983), Bill Nunn (Do The Right Thing, 1984), and Luis Guzman (Out Of Sight, 1998), are a few of the jurors. Bruce McGill, who appears as the judge presiding over the case, was in the classic comedy Animal House (1978). Cusack, and Beals are from Illinois -- Cusack from Evanston, and Beals from Chicago. Piven was born in New York, but raised in Evanston, IL. Hackman was born in California, but was raised mostly in Danville, IL.

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