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This Review Reveals Minor Details About the Plot.

Have gun case. Will relocate.

Runaway Jury (2003) on IMDb

Plot Overview

birthday party—e, Murray & Colfax Financial Services Corp. executive Jacob Wood (Dylan McDermott) of New Orleans consults privately with his secretary about a vaguely remembered tune he was told at his son's 5th birth­day party he'll have to sing to him tonight at bed­time. The bangs they hear in the corridor aren't fire­works. In less than thirty seconds nine are dead and counting. That's enough time for him to return fire from his closed office, but he's not packing. That's not enough time for the police to arrive—his secretary calling 9–1–1 gets put on hold.

His widow Celeste Wood (Joanna Going) retains, pro bono, attorney Wendell Rohr (Dustin Hoffman) to sue Vicksburg Firearms for negligence in allowing a Colfax ex-employee who'd been fired on Friday to obtain one of their semi-auto hand­guns by Monday to vent his rage. A gun store employee was doing a brisk business selling their ware to a fire­arms trader who'd resell them from his pickup with a markup that did not faze the stock­broker. (It's like a bar­tender selling too much booze to some poor bloke who's over his limit.) The CEO would bear some guilt for advertising print-proof finishes on his guns. Those guns were destined for mischief if their owners wanted to obfuscate who was handling them. (It would be like blowing into your buddy's breathalizer device so he could start his car.) The Vicksburg CEO him­self was a collector of arms and uses them for hunting or sports. The plaintiff's attorney Rohr will concede it's naïve to imagine a world with­out guns. One of the court­room visitors gets attacked in her home and has to use what comes to hand to defend her­self. An anti-gun zealot is disqualified from jury duty. We're all patriotic, and an ex-marine on the jury who'd fought in Panama, Grenada and Afghanistan knows about using weapons to defend against tyranny. The court is not anti-gun; this is a straight­forward civil suit, perhaps precedent-setting.

A coalition of gun manufacturers pool their resources to retain topnotch jury consultant Rankin Fitch (Gene Hackman) whose team proceeds to stack the jury in their favor. So far this is like watching the inner workings of some professional clan. As Frederick Forsyth wrote about his spies:

One of the strange things about the covert world is the almost clublike atmosphere that can exist within it. Pilots share the same sort of camaraderie, but they are allowed to. Para­troopers have it, also, and Special Forces. Professionals tend to respect each other, even across barriers of rivalry, opposition, or out­right hostility. In the Second World War the fighter pilots of the Luftwaffe and the RAF seldom hated each other, leaving such senti­ments to the zealots and civilians. Professionals serve their political masters and bureaucrats loyally, but would usually prefer to sink a pint of beer with others of their own arcane skills, even the opposition. (142–3)

This would be a mighty ho-hum plot were it not for juror #9 from Potemkin village. Co-manager of (video) Game Trader on the Esplanade Mall, Nicholas Easter (John Cusack) got selected despite his best efforts to escape. He had other plans. He wanted to pursue a video game tournament that week for a monetary prize. That didn't impress Judge Harkin (Bruce McGill) in the least. Nicholas has now regrouped, along with his hot girl­friend Marlee (Rachel Weisz.) These grifters want to sell the jury to the side that can meet their price. But they are amateurs; they're just not appreciated by the legal pooh-bahs who for their part don't turn them in—got to keep their options open, you know.


The snippet of song Mr. Wood recalled went, “Oh, the buzzin' of the bees / In the cool shade trees / At the crystal water mountains.” His secretary Deborah continued with, “At the lemonade springs / Where the blue bird sings / at the Big Rock Candy Mountain.” It's unfortunate for them that the song ends with work­place violence, and a disgruntled ex-employee finished it for them in a flurry: “Where they hung the Turk / That invented work / In the Big Rock Candy Mountains”. “The Turk that invented work”, at least in the form we know it, was Adam the first man, after God punished him for eating the apple. (Gen. 3:17-19) “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread.” The first workplace violence happened soon after when Adam's son Cain went postal, (1John 3:11-12) “we should love one another. Not as Cain, who was of that wicked one, and slew his brother. And where­fore slew he him? Because his own works were evil, and his brother's righteous.”

(Jasher 1:13–33) And [Eve] called the name of the first born Cain, saying, I have obtained a man from the Lord, and the name of the other she called Abel, for she said, In vanity we came into the earth, and in vanity we shall be taken from it. And the boys grew up and their father gave them a possession in the land; and Cain was a tiller of the ground, and Abel a keeper of sheep.

And it was at the expir­ation of a few years, that they brought an approxi­mating offering to the Lord, and Cain brought from the fruit of the ground, and Abel brought from the first­lings of his flock from the fat thereof, and God turned and inclined to Abel and his offering, and a fire came down from the Lord from heaven and consumed it. And unto Cain and his offering the Lord did not turn, and he did not incline to it, for he had brought from the inferior fruit of the ground before the Lord, and Cain was jealous against his brother Abel on account of this, and he sought a pretext to slay him.

And in some time after, Cain and Abel his brother, went one day into the field to do their work; and they were both in the field, Cain tilling and ploughing his ground, and Abel feeding his flock; and the flock passed that part which Cain had ploughed in the ground, and it sorely grieved Cain on this account. And Cain approached his brother Abel in anger, and he said unto him, What is there between me and thee, that thou comest to dwell and bring thy flock to feed in my land? And Abel answered his brother Cain and said unto him, What is there between me and thee, that thou shalt eat the flesh of my flock and clothe thyself with their wool? And now therefore, put off the wool of my sheep with which thou hast clothed thyself, and recompense me for their fruit and flesh which thou hast eaten, and when thou shalt have done this, I will then go from thy land as thou hast said? And Cain said to his brother Abel, Surely if I slay thee this day, who will require thy blood from me? And Abel answered Cain, saying, Surely God who has made us in the earth, he will avenge my cause, and he will require my blood from thee shouldst thou slay me, for the Lord is the judge and arbiter, and it is he who will requite man according to his evil, and the wicked man according to the wickedness that he may do upon earth. And now, if thou shouldst slay me here, surely God knoweth thy secret views, and will judge thee for the evil which thou didst declare to do unto me this day. And when Cain heard the words which Abel his brother had spoken, behold the anger of Cain was kindled against his brother Abel for declaring this thing. And Cain hastened and rose up, and took the iron part of his ploughing instrument, with which he suddenly smote his brother and he slew him, and Cain spilt the blood of his brother Abel upon the earth, and the blood of Abel streamed upon the earth before the flock.

And after this Cain repented having slain his brother, and he was sadly grieved, and he wept over him and it vexed him exceedingly. And Cain rose up and dug a hole in the field, wherein he put his brother's body, and he turned the dust over it. And the Lord knew what Cain had done to his brother, and the Lord appeared to Cain and said unto him, Where is Abel thy brother that was with thee? And Cain dissembled, and said, I do not know, am I my brother's keeper? And the Lord said unto him, What hast thou done? The voice of thy brother's blood crieth unto me from the ground where thou hast slain him. For thou hast slain thy brother and hast dissembled before me, and didst imagine in thy heart that I saw thee not, nor knew all thy actions. But thou didst this thing and didst slay thy brother for naught and because he spoke rightly to thee, and now, there­fore, cursed be thou from the ground which opened its mouth to receive thy brother's blood from thy hand, and wherein thou didst bury him. And it shall be when thou shalt till it, it shall no more give thee its strength as in the beginning, for thorns and thistles shall the ground produce, and thou shalt be moving and wandering in the earth until the day of thy death. And at that time Cain went out from the presence of the Lord, from the place where he was, and he went moving and wandering in the land toward the east of Eden, he and all belonging to him.

There it was “the iron part of his ploughing instrument” that caused Abel's death, but by the hand of Cain. In this movie it was a hand­gun. As for Cain's jealousy over Abel's offering, (Gen. 4:6-7) “And the LORD said unto Cain, Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen? If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him.” It was a sin offering that lieth at the door, a chance to get it right with God. A waiting period today gives the angry man a chance to calm down. Cain is still the elder brother and would have had more say in communcal matters than would his younger Abel, the one whose offering was accepted. RJ ends with some shots of black boys playing basket­ball in the ghetto. The fired employee would still have it a lot better than some.

After the shooting the movie picks up in New Orleans two years later. The original words of the song speak of “the cigarette trees … Beside the crystal fountains”. Nick speaks to a maintenance man who is trying to unclog the fountain's pump while he smokes endless cigarettes. It's a nice transition.

Somebody needs to stop the fancy lawyers from subverting justice. (Job 29:13-17) “The blessing of him that was ready to perish came upon me: and I caused the widow's heart to sing for joy. I put on righteousness, and it clothed me: my judgment was as a robe and a diadem. I was eyes to the blind, and feet was I to the lame. I was a father to the poor: and the cause which I knew not I searched out. And I brake the jaws of the wicked, and plucked the spoil out of his teeth.”

If by some chance the widow Wood prevails with her suit, the firearms company will likely appeal it, perhaps win the appeal. Then they could rejoice with the song, “In the Big Rock Candy Mountains, / The jails are made of tin / And you can walk right out again, / As soon as you are in.”

Production Values

This book-derived film, “” (2003) was directed by Gary Fleder. Its screenplay was written by Brian Koppel­man, based on John Grisham's novel, Runaway Jury. The novel, how­ever, concerned a miscreant tobacco company. The film stars John Cusack. Rachel Weisz, Dustin Hoffman, and Gene Hackman. This is great casting, and their practiced acting well made up for a lack­luster plot. The stand­out was Gene Hackman as a hard-bitten jury consultant. The fragmenting editing, how­ever, did not allow these screen greats much time to develop their characters. Every­one acted well with what opportunity they had.

MPAA rated it PG–13 for violence, language and thematic elements. It's billed as a Crime, Drama, Thriller movie. However, nobody was charged with any crime—not that some weren't committed. It lacked the court­room drama of the novel's version. And one surprise mugging exhausted all the thrills. I don't think it qualifies for any of those categories. Would one call it a musical for having part of “Happy Birthday” sung in it, parts of a hobo ditty hummed, and one toot on a horn sounded? I think not. The mystery, however, runs very deep. Jury consultant Fitch whose specialty it is to read people, could not get a line on Nick. Nick refused a nuisance payoff causing Fitch to wonder why such an intelligent kid doesn't choose, rather, “Safer ways for a sharp kid like you to make money. What's the real reason?”

Review Conclusion w/ Christian Recommendation

This civil trial was about a hot-button issue: gun violence. As such it was very important they get an unbiased jury. The one time I personally was seated on a jury was a hot-button issue, as well: alleged impaired driving on pot. Marijuana is legal in my state, but one still can't drive impaired. Both sides were real picky about whom they allowed; we ended up with two men and ten women (plus one woman alternate.) School­teachers and Negroes were automatic­ally rejected by one side or the other. The defense liked me when they found out I had once gone with a woman in the fore­front of the move­ment to legalize marijuana. They figured she would have told me horror stories of injustices. The prosecution liked me when they discovered I was very safety-conscious in the factory where I worked—I was wearing my safety award shirt to court. I would not abide some­one impaired working around dangerous machinery.

Personally, I would have rather gone to the movies as was my wont on a Friday, churning out another of my hundreds of reviews. Well, I'd just have to let the dash-cam video of the guy flunking the field-sobriety test be my movie for the week­end. He performed a critical part of the test in the wrong direction, because, said the prosecutor, he was unable to pay attention for being impaired on pot. Really?

According to Rankin Fitch: “You think your average juror is King Solomon? No, he's a roofer with a mortgage. He wants to go home and sit in his Barca­lounger and let the cable TV wash over him.” I was into movies and was used to examining them for what was happening on-screen. I was able from the video to point out to my fellow jurors that the reason the suspect turned in the wrong direction was he was left-handed; other­wise he passed the test. They called me “Sherlock Holmes” and acquitted the guy right away. It's the mystery of Nick's back­ground that's the critical factor in this trial. Fitch: “Every­body has a secret they don't want you to find.”

Movie Ratings

Action factor: Decent action scenes. Suitability for Children: Suitable for children 13+ years with guidance. Special effects: Average special effects. Video Occasion: Fit For a Friday Evening. Suspense: Keeps you on the edge of your seat. Overall product rating: Four stars out of five.

Works Cited

Scripture quoted from the King James Version. Pub. 1611, rev. 1769. Software.

The Book of Jasher. Translated from the Hebrew into English (1840). Photo litho­graphic reprint of exact edition published by J.H. Parry & Co., Salt Lake City: 1887. Muskogee, OK: Artisan Pub., 1988. Print, WEB.

Forsyth, Frederick. The Deceiver. New York: Bantam Books, 1991. Print.

“Big Rock Candy Mountain” lyrics: Harry McClintock. Songwriter: Burl Ives. © Peermusic Publishing. For non-commercial use only.