Joshua Rich
February 20, 2004 AT 05:00 AM EST

Runaway Jury

type
Movie
Current Status
In Season
mpaa
PG-13
runtime
128 minutes
Wide Release Date
10/17/03
performer
John Cusack, Gene Hackman, Dustin Hoffman, Rachel Weisz, Jennifer Beals, Bruce McGill, Jeremy Piven, Nick Searcy
director
Gary Fleder
distributor
20th Century Fox Film Corporation
author
Brian Koppelman, David Levien
genre
Mystery and Thriller, Drama

We gave it a B-

This latest John Grisham adaptation, Runaway Jury, is generally outlandish and nonsensical, but it gets at least one quirk of human nature right — namely, how despite our best-laid plans, sometimes the most important moments in life occur in the john. Here, of course, the key occasion is a much-publicized four-minute stretch in which Gene Hackman and Dustin Hoffman face off on film — and in a men’s room — for the first time ever. It’s a great scene: tight, tense, and well-written by some combination of the movie’s four credited screenwriters. And the two Hollywood heavyweights pull it off with casual agility. (Hoffman, for what it’s worth, is a noble New Orleans lawyer representing a widow suing a firearms manufacturer; Hackman plays a ruthless jury fixer who we know is very bad because he hates Democrats and makes cracks about overweight women.)

You can’t blame the folks at Fox for devoting a chunk of this DVD’s extras to The Scene (also present are three terrific featurettes detailing various technical aspects of the production). In fact, there’s an entire mini-documentary about it, in which we learn how The Scene was stuck in the movie only after the two stars were cast, how both actors were nervous during its 12-hour shoot, and how they feared that ”two old guys talking in the bathroom” would bore the hell out of audiences. Quips Hoffman, ”We wanted a girl to walk through in a bikini and say, ‘Oh! I thought it was the ladies’ room.”’

Which is all surprisingly entertaining. The only problem? The movie’s not really about these guys.

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