No. I mean I don't know. Erm.

Film At the time of release, Gary Fleder's The Runaway Jury was largely dismissed as 'yet another John Grisham adaptation', which is odd because (with the exception of a couple of tv movies) his books hadn't been anywhere near a cinema screen since The Rainmaker in 1997 (The Gingerbread Man in 1998 directed by Robert Altman was based on an original screenplay). It does fit within the recognisable formula of well known actors making big speeches in and around courtrooms but in execution it's a far more subtle piece of work than it was given credit for at the time, more akin to the work of Steven Soderbergh in serious mode.

This connection is apparent in the use of time; much like The Limey there are flashes forward and back, imagined scenes and the withholding of information for dramatic effect. Unlike those earlier Grisham adaptations, a second viewing explains the actions of the characters much more clearly because we cumulatively have a greater awareness of their motivations. John Cusack is playing the character we've seen him play a hundred times, but as the film progresses we realize that it's a darker, edgier version and that we're being seduced by him in a similar way to the jurors. Similarly Rachel Weisz has the acidity she displayed in The Shape of the Things but later we have a vision of her vulnerability underneath.

The most traditional and least surprising aspect is the relationship between the Hackman and Hoffman characters. Apparently their big scene were they argue the ethics of a clean trial in a bathroom was not in the original script and was written and filmed later, isolated from much of principal photography. It's a great little scene, well acted, but it feels tacked on. It doesn't further the story and tells us things about the characters we already know, that Hackman is a son-of-a-bitch and that Hoffman would lose if something fishy wasn't going on. But the film would be less powerful without it and the viewer would undoubtedly be saying at the end, 'You mean you had those two and they didn't have a scene together?'.

What makes the film different is that the story isn't about the outcome of the trial in the traditional sense (can the 'good' lawyer provide enough evidence to beat the 'bad' lawyer) but who can manipulate the jury from within and without the reach the most positive outcome for them. The main thrust of the story is told outside the courtroom, in streets, hotel rooms, restaurants and bathrooms. During the trial scenes, at what would usually be important moments like the closing statements, the editor deliberately cuts away to something happening outside. Unlike the majority of studio releases it assumes that viewers have seen movies in this genre before, understands the conventions and gleefully plays about with them, granting the viewer some intelligence, which makes for a refreshing change.

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