By Joshua Rich
February 20, 2004 at 05:00 AM EST
  • Movie

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.

  • Movie
  • PG-13
  • 128 minutes
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