If author John Grisham were on trial for crimes against cinema, Runaway Jury (adapted from his novel) would serve as Exhibit A. This isn't a particularly awful courtroom thriller, but it's far from memorable - and that's a crime when you're working with the combined talents of Dustin Hoffman, Gene Hackman, and John Cusack. Class action this ain't, but if you're after instantly forgettable, spineless entertainment, you won't feel cheated.
When a widow brings a civil suit against the corporate gun consortium she blames for her husband's murder, 'the firm' employs hard-nosed jury consultant Rankin Fitch (Gene Hackman) to secure a favourable verdict. Dustin Hoffman is prosecuting attorney Wendell Rohr, resolutely idealistic despite the large-scale corruption which threatens to steal his case.
Meanwhile, rogue juror Nick Easter (Cusack) is playing both sides with help from the mysterious Marlee (Rachel Weisz). Using Easter's influence over his fellow jurors, Marlee offers the verdict to the highest bidder...
"IF HE HAD A MOUSTACHE, HE'D TWIDDLE IT"
For two hours, the one motivating factor that threatens to inspire sympathy for Marlee and Easter is held back for the sake of a final twist, the impact of which is severely diminished in any case. Essentially, by the time you understand what they're doing and why they're doing it, you've lost interest.
While Cusack and Weisz are forced to play their cards close to the chest, the path is made clear for Dustin Hoffman to steal the show - his unbridled sincerity providing the film's only ounce of heart. Gene Hackman is certainly one of the standout actors of his generation, but he's on autopilot here, and switched to outrageous villain mode. If he had a moustache, he'd twiddle it.
For those attracted by the thought of Hoffman and Hackman finally sharing screen time, be warned: you'll leave the cinema wanting to sue.