AT THE MOVIES: No Doubting the Verdict on This One; RUNAWAY JURY (12A)stars John Cusack,Gene Hackman,Dustin Hoffman,Rachel Weisz, Bruce Davison,Joanna Going,Dylan McDermott,Jennifer Beals,Bruce McGill,Melora Walters. Director: Gary Fleder.127mins*** GIRL WITH A PEARL EARRING (12A)stars Scarlett Johansson, Colin Firth,Tom Wilkinson, Judy Parfitt,Cillian Murphy,Essie Davis, Alakina Mann,David Morrissey.Director: Peter Webber
Byline: Philip KEY
100 mins.****IN THE USA,jury selection appears to bebigbusiness. At least,if the film Run a -way Jury is to bebelieved. Based on a novel by John Grisham,a specialist in legal thrillers, it follows the work of an expert in jury selection, Rankin Fitch.
Fitch, as played by Gene Hackman, offers advice on jury selection to high profile defence teams,in this case gun manufacturers facing a civil action from a widow whose husband has been shot dead in his office by a gun nut.
The Hackman character, using all kinds of surveillance equipment and a huge team of workers, collects information on all potential jurors.
Then using hidden microphones and secret cameras he is able to tell the leading defence attorney during the trial who to accept for jury service and who to reject.
As he tells his gun manufacturing clients, he is able to deliver the jury they need to win, but this being aGrisham story, that is just the start of a tale with numerous twists along the way.
Chief among them is the selection of a juror played by John Cusack. He thinks he has the ability to swing the jury whichever way he wants and offers to ``sell'' the jury to whichever team pays the highest price.
When he proves he can do that by getting the jury to perform a number of stunts -lunching with the judge, opening proceedings by swearing allegiance -the two legal teams are convinced that he can do just that.
With Dustin Hoffman playing the liberal prosecution lawyer and Rachel Weisz,Cusack's girlfriend who tries to make the deals,it is a very strong cast but it is Hackman who dominates every scene in which he appears,creating one of his most brilliant nasty characters.
Smooth, snarling, angry, cajoling and threatening, Hackman has a whale of a time as the legal businessman who will stop at nothing to get the verdict he wants.
Hoffman gets a less showy role but makes a strong impact as a lawyer struggling with his conscience.
Cusack strolls through his role as the manipulative juror, turning his character into a less pleasant version of Henry Fonda's role in the classic film Twelve Angry Men.
Four writers worked on the script which at times tends towards the unbelievable. But they manage to give Grisham's novel a good screen workout.
The corkscrew twists are all there, with a surprise ending and director Gary Fleder keeps it allbubbling.
IF YOU have been lucky enough to catch last week's top release, the wry romantic comedy Lost In Translation, you will have witnessed the coming of age of actress Scarlett Johansson. …