starring Dustin Hoffman, John Cusak, Rachel Wiez, Gene Hackman
written by Brian Koppelman, David Levien, Rick Cleveland and Matthew Chapman
directed by Gary Felder
This is based on the popular novel of the same title by John Grisham. An inside look at how professional jury selectors in big-stakes jury trials in America try to rig panels of jurists in their client’s favor. It is shocking and mercenary, giving us yet another glimpse of unbridled American capitalist greed run amok. But fascinating and gripping. The premise is changed from the novel to the movie. In the novel it is a wrongful death suit against a tobacco company and the issue of cigarette makers’ accountability that is being explored. But in the film it is a wrongful death suit against a gun maker for its culpability in the death of victims of its products that is being played on. Both are hot current issues in American jurisprudence. Tobacco companies have indeed been sued several times in America for making products that they know to be unhealthy, leading and contributing to lung cancer and other fatal diseases among. There have even been some convictions and huge punitive awards that were overturned on appeal because the tobacco industry is a legal business that prints health warnings on their products.
I don’t know of such suits against gun makers yet, but I have read of them being considered. The formula is the same. A company knowingly makes a dangerous and potentially lethal product. But you can imagine the defense already: it is a legal business and besides, guns do not kill people, only people kill people. So the obvious solution to gun makers is to make and sell more weapons and claim that more guns equals more security because of greater deterrence of potential criminals. Many Americans think like that. Isn’t it awful?
Gene Hackman, one of my favorite actors, is one of these jury-fixers, and he thinks he’s got the case in the bag for his client, the defending weapon maker. But unknown to him a couple of stridently anti-gun lobbyists have infiltrated the jury and are gently turning the verdict towards a huge, surprise conviction of the company and indictment of the entire industry. It is one of those hundred million dollar victories that we sometimes read about concerning tobacco companies but that are later overturned on appeal. The great drama of the story is when Hackman sees his defeat coming at him like an unstoppable locomotive.
The movie, like the novel, is just okay. I hate it when Hollywood changes a book to fit some more marketable pattern.