Runaway Jury

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Runaway Jury
Theatrical release poster
Directed byGary Fleder
Screenplay by
Based onThe Runaway Jury
by John Grisham
Produced by
CinematographyRobert Elswit
Edited by
Music byChristopher Young
Distributed by20th Century Fox
Release date
  • October 17, 2003 (2003-10-17)
Running time
127 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$60 million[1]
Box office$80.2 million[1]

Runaway Jury is a 2003 American legal thriller film directed by Gary Fleder, and starring John Cusack, Gene Hackman, Dustin Hoffman, and Rachel Weisz. An adaptation of John Grisham's 1996 novel The Runaway Jury,[2] the film pits lawyer Wendell Rohr (Hoffman) against shady jury consultant Rankin Fitch (Hackman), who uses unlawful means to stack the jury with people sympathetic to the defense. Meanwhile, a high-stakes cat-and-mouse game begins when juror Nicholas Easter (Cusack) and his girlfriend Marlee (Weisz) appear to be able to sway the jury into delivering any verdict they want in a trial against a gun manufacturer. The film was released October 17, 2003.


In New Orleans, an ex-employee perpetrates a mass shooting at a stock brokerage firm. Eleven people are killed and several wounded. Among the dead is Jacob Wood. Two years later, with attorney Wendell Rohr, Jacob's widow Celeste sues Vicksburg Firearms for the company's gross negligence that caused her husband's death. During jury selection, jury consultant Rankin Fitch, revealed to have ties with Vicksburg, and his team communicate background information on the jury pool through electronic surveillance to defense attorney Durwood Cable, who is in the courtroom.

Potential juror, Nick Easter attempts to be excused from jury duty. Judge Frederick Harkin refuses, claiming Nick is receiving a lesson in civic duty. Nick's congenial manner wins over his fellow jurors except Frank Herrera, a Marine veteran, who dislikes him.

Someone named Marlee calls Fitch and Rohr and makes an offer to deliver the desired verdict to the first bidder. Rohr dismisses the offer, assuming it to be Fitch's tactic to obtain a mistrial. Fitch wants proof that she can deliver, which she provides by asking if he "feels patriotic" and then having the jury pledge allegiance to the flag. By observing the jurors' behaviour through concealed cameras, Fitch identifies Nick as the influencer and orders his apartment searched, but finds nothing.

Marlee retaliates by getting one of Fitch's jurors bounced. Fitch then blackmails three jurors, leading Rikki Coleman to attempt suicide. He also sends his men to find a concealed storage device in Nick's apartment with key information, after which they burn it. When Nick shows the judge footage of Fitch's men breaking into his apartment, the jury is sequestered.

Rohr's key witness, a former Vicksburg employee, does not show up. After confronting Fitch, Rohr decides that he cannot win the case. He asks his firm's partners for $10 million to pay Marlee. Fitch sends an operative, Janovich, to kidnap Marlee, who fights him off and raises the price to $15 million. On principle, Rohr refuses to pay, electing to take his chances against Fitch while keeping his conscience clear. After the CEO of Vicksburg Firearms loses his temper under cross-examination and makes a bad impression on the jury, Fitch agrees to pay Marlee to be certain of the verdict.

Fitch's subordinate Doyle, who is investigating Nick, finds that Nick is actually Jeff Kerr, a law school drop-out. He then travels to Gardner, Indiana, where Jeff and his law school girlfriend Gabby (i.e., Marlee) both come from. Doyle quizzes Gabby's mother, who reveals that Gabby's sister died in a shooting years before when she was in high school. At the time, the town of Gardner sued the manufacturer of the guns used and lost; Fitch had helped the defense win the case. Nick and Marlee's offer is a set-up. Doyle calls Fitch to warn him but is too late as the money has already been paid.

After receiving confirmation of the payment, Nick asks the other jurors to review the facts, saying they owe it to Celeste Wood to deliberate. This causes Herrera to launch into a rant against the plaintiff, which undermines any support he had from the other jurors. The gun manufacturer is found liable, with the jury awarding $110 million in general damages to Celeste Wood.

After the trial, Nick and Marlee confront Fitch with a receipt for the $15 million bribe, which they will make public unless he retires. Fitch asks Nick how he got the jury to vote for the plaintiff; Nick replies that he did not, explaining that he stopped Fitch from stealing the trial merely by getting the jury to vote with their hearts. Nick and Marlee inform an indignant Fitch that the $15 million "fee" will benefit the shooting victims in Gardner.

While on his way with Celeste and her son to a celebratory meal, Rohr sees Nick and Marlee watching children play. They exchange knowing looks, and Rohr smiles. He leaves as Marlee and Nick decide to return home to Gardner.



In August 1996, Arnon Milchan and distribution partner Warner Bros. paid a record $8 million for the rights to the novel and first-look rights to Grisham's next novel.[3] Directors slated to helm the picture included Joel Schumacher and Mike Newell, with the lead being offered to Edward Norton and Will Smith.[4] The novel's focus on big tobacco was retained until the 1999 film The Insider was released, necessitating a plot change from tobacco to gun companies.[4]


Box office[edit]

The film made $11.8 million in its opening weekend, finishing third. It went on to gross $49.4 million in the United States and a total of $80.2 million worldwide.[5]

Critical response[edit]

On Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 73% based on 162 reviews, with an average rating of 6.6/10. The site calls the film "an implausible but entertaining legal thriller."[6] On Metacritic, it has weighted average score of 61 out of 100, based on 38 reviews, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[7] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A−" on an A+ to F scale.[8]

Roger Ebert gave the film three out of four stars and stated that the plot to sell the jury to the highest-bidding party was the most ingenious device in the story because it avoided pitting the "evil" and the "good" protagonists directly against each other in a stereotypical manner, but it plunged both of them into a moral abyss.[9]


  1. ^ a b Runaway Jury Box Office Mojo
  2. ^ "Runaway Jury (2003) Film Review; Courtroom Confrontation With Lots of Star Power" The New York Times
  3. ^ Carver, Benedict (August 30, 1996). "Holding Court". Screen International. p. 16.
  4. ^ a b The Runaway Jury
  5. ^ Runaway Jury - Box Office Data, Movie News, Cast Information - The Numbers
  6. ^ "Runaway Jury". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 16 October 2017.
  7. ^ "Runaway Jury reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved 16 October 2017.
  8. ^ "Search for 'Runaway Jury'". CinemaScore.
  9. ^ "'Runaway Jury' review", Roger Ebert

External links[edit]