Runaway Jury (Rental) (2003)
|Year Of Production||2003|
|RSDL / Flipper||RSDL (91:33)||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||4||Directed By||Gary Fleder|
Twentieth Century Fox
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||2.35:1|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||2.35:1||Miscellaneous|
|Subtitles||English for the Hearing Impaired||Smoking||Yes|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
"Trials are too important to be left up to juries."
It must be one of the great filmmaking conundrums. Just why are the best selling novels of former lawyer turned author John Grisham so enormously popular, selling by the millions, yet when the same stories are translated to the screen, more often than not, the results are less than fulfilling? Consider examples such as The Pelican Brief, The Client, The Rainmaker, or The Chamber. These are all films, which if not for the Grisham tag on the poster, would probably have sunk without a trace into the sea of mediocre crime/lawyer thrillers. The only efforts that I consider to have any redeeming qualities are two of his earliest novels, The Firm, with Tom Cruise and A Time To Kill with Matthew McConaughey, with the former even undergoing a massive rewrite of the climax to make it more filmable and exciting. Just why some of these adaptations have worked when most have failed is anyone's guess. Apparently, several years ago, the lack of a successful film translation saw Grisham halt the sale of the film rights to his books and after 1997's disappointing The Rainmaker, it would be more than five years before another Grisham lawyer novel would make the transition to the screen.
It has been a long wait, but finally the time has arrived for a new Grisham novel to make its way to the screen. For my mind, Runaway Jury is certainly one of the more entertaining and readable of all the Grisham novels. It is in fact the only one I have read more than once (and I have read them all). It's got a tight and unique story, with a decent twist at the end. But it is the first half that I found to be the most intriguing - and it all revolves around the science that is jury selection.
The story all centres around a huge civil case. In this instance it is a case brought by a grieving widow against the manufacturer of a semi-automatic handgun that was used in a mass slaying which claimed the life of her husband. This could be a landmark case, since no person has ever brought a case against the gun industry and won. What hope do they have this time? Especially when the defence has the ultra-experienced and win-at-all costs jury expert Rankin Fitch (Gene Hackman) on their side.
Well this time it is going to be different. The jury has been hijacked from the inside. A young man and woman with a hidden agenda have managed to effectively rig the jury. By gaining selection on the twelve person panel, the smooth and persuasive Nicholas Easter (John Cusack), with the aid of his girlfriend Marlee (Rachel Weisz), is plotting on steering the jury towards the right decision. The right decision in this case simply means which one of the two sides will be willing to hand over the most cash. The two young idealists must battle the plaintiff's lawyer on one side, the honourable and decent Wendell Rohr (Dustin Hoffman), a man with high ideals and buckets of integrity, and someone who only begrudgingly plays along with this caper. On the other side is Rankin Fitch, an evil shyster who cares little for the common man and even less for the grieving widow of a murder victim. He will stop at nothing to deliver a not guilty verdict for his client and has almost unlimited cash to throw around to ensure the verdict he wants.
Just like the novel, from the opening scenes this film cracks along at a fair pace as the jury selection process is examined and turned into an almost scientific procedure - fat single women make great defence jurors, as do ex-marines. Pick the right jury and the battle is as good as won is both sides' motto. But with the integrity of the jury compromised, the battle is on from both inside and outside to deliver a verdict.
The big plus here is the great cast. They keep the film ticking along quite nicely, with John Cusack putting in another flawless performance and the first ever on-screen encounter between stalwarts Dustin Hoffman and Gene Hackman being worth the price of a rental alone. Unfortunately, there are two elements of this film which let it down the most and again it is the need to differ from Grisham's source material which sees me grumbling. Firstly, the court case in the book was against the big tobacco industry, just like in The Insider. All the elements of dirty tricks and foul play seemed right at home in the tobacco industry, and here it seems just a little too far fetched to be bringing a claim against a gun company. I mean it's a little idealistic, but guns don't kill people - people kill people, whereas cigarettes do kill people - and no arguments there. Secondly the ending has lost the delicious twist from the novel, which the first time around you will certainly not see coming until the last couple of pages. The climax in the film is signposted a good 15 minutes from the end and the whole thing basically runs of out steam from that point on.
Nonetheless, this is still a slick production, with a great cast and a solid screenplay that will not disappoint for an evening's entertainment.
This transfer is offered in exactly the same aspect ratio as it was shown theatrically - 2.35:1. It is also 16x9 enhanced.
I was a little disappointed with the sharpness and detail level on offer here. The whole thing has just the slightest tweak of softness and there is a little edge enhancement noticeable in several of the lower lit interior shots, especially in Nicholas Easter's apartment. Shadow detail also borders on being problematic as many of the same shots in the apartment are in very poor light. I suggest making sure the room is sufficiently darkened before viewing. There is virtually no grain and no low level noise. It's not a poor transfer, just a slightly less than perfect one.
The colours are fairly stock standard for the drab courtroom drama style of film. Blacks are deep and solid, and skin tones perfectly natural.
I saw no MPEG artefacts and there is no annoying shimmer or aliasing on any surface. Film artefacts are present, though not in overly excessive numbers. Apart from quite a large splotch at 117:20, they are mostly unnoticeable.
English for the Hearing Impaired are the only flavour of subtitles available, and after sampling these extensively I found them mostly accurate if perhaps a little small in size.
This is a dual layered disc which is formatted RSDL. The layer change occurs incredibly late at 91:33 and is not what you would call perfect placement, as Gene Hackman's character pauses noticeably in mid stride right before a scene transition.
The sole English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack which graces this disc is a pretty decent effort, offering a wide soundstage, albeit with only a little surround channel use, but it is the width of the dynamic range that is the most impressive element of this soundtrack. Despite being a dialogue focused film, the level of bass reached on occasion is quite impressive.
Dialogue levels are excellent and there are no audio sync problems. Unlike many of the previous John Grisham adaptations where the southern American accent and drawl dominates to the point of needing some interpretation, this effort is far milder on the ears.
Christopher Young's score is fairly typical of the courtroom thriller.
There is only a little surround use, but it really isn't the type of film to benefit from an over-the-top enveloping experience. The odd streetscape and outside noise are pretty much all you are likely to hear from the rears.
The subwoofer crops up on occasion to provide some deep ominous tones, especially whenever Rankin Fitch appears on screen.
|Surround Channel Use|
Alas, this disc is currently released as a rental only and is devoid of any extras.
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
Since this Region 4 release is currently a rental only, this is not a completely fair comparison, but for the record:
The Region 4 disc misses out on:
The Region 1 disc misses out on:
An obvious victory to the Region 1 disc. We will wait for the full Region 4 sell through version to see if this imbalance is rectified.
The cast is the glue that holds this tale together. John Cusack is watchable in just about anything these days, and the tantalising prospect of seeing old-timers like Dustin Hoffman and Gene Hackman going head to head in a scene for the first time is worth the price of a rental alone. As a fan of Grisham work's I really just wish they had left the story alone and retained the focus of the trial on the big tobacco industry and kept the twist at the end.
The video transfer is a little softer than I would have liked, though it is still mostly blemish free.
The audio retains much of the front channel focus of a dialogue based film, but does offer some nice bass response at times.
There are no extras.
|DVD||Loewe Xemix 5106DO, using RGB output|
|Display||Loewe Calida (84cm). Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL). This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL).|
|Speakers||Front - B&W 602S2, Centre - B&W CC6S2, Rear - B&W 601S2, Sub - Energy E:xl S10|