When I hear about a movie with either Gene Hackman, Rachel Weisz, Dustin Hoffman, or John Cusack, I am THERE. So, I was surprised this afternoon when I watched RUNAWAY JURY, not to be confused with RUNAWAY TRAIN or THE RUNAWAYS or a dirty video by Kanye West. Somehow I must have been asleep when RUNAWAY JURY opened in 2003.
Based on yet another John Grisham legal thriller, RUNAWAY JURY rises above the usual bloated efforts made from Grisham's terse, screenplay-ready novels. Instead director Gary Fleder handles a densely complicated plot with aplomb and with Hitchcock's favorite device--withholding key evidence until the last moment. A cocky John Cusack seems an unwilling juror at first, but his liasion with a gutsy, yet vulnerable Rachel Weisz suggests a deeper agenda. Dustin Hoffman as the crusading lawyer sueing a mega gunmaking corporation faces the great Gene Hackman, using all his reptilian charm and the NRA's tentacles not only to buy the jurors but to discredit them as well. But somehow they are both being offered millions from a mystery caller. All of this, including some truly dirty tricks by Hackman's team, make RUNAWAY JURY a perfect movie for those who love mysteries, LAW AND ORDER, or legal thrillers.
And....if you're looking for more character-driven mysteries, you won't be disappointed with the new Masterpiece Mystery series CASE HISTORIES, based on Kate Atkinson's wry detective novels about Jackson Brodie, a Scottish detective with so much personal baggage he can hardly function. But function he does, and with wit and the noir's best asset--skepticism. So, if you haven't time for the novels, and they are rich in character development and a wonderful sense of Edinburgh, make time for the superb Masterpiece Mystery series CASE HISTORIES on PBS.