Runaway Jury

Bull S1 E1-6 (Fox)

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bull-tv-seriesWhen an actor has become synonymous with playing one of the most popular characters on one of the highest-rated television series for over a decade, it’s hard for the audience to detach them from that long-standing role and accept them as someone completely new, so it’s understandable if we’re initially struggling to see Doctor Jason Bull as anything other than an undercover role for NCIS’ Tony DiNozzo, complete with thick-rimmed spectacles to make him look more serious and introspective.

That’s not the fault of Michael Weatherley, for whom Bull is something of a star vehicle after finding fame on NCIS. It’s just an acknowledgement that after 13 years on a weekly television show, an actor has put so much of himself onto a recurring role that the audience believes that it has a familiarity with them that is hard to overcome – especially when he moves direct from one part to another over the summer hiatus without so much as a breather. And truth to tell, the character of Bull really isn’t all that far from that of DiNozzo, and it doesn’t help that both NCIS and Bull are both rather similar story-of-the-week crime procedurals: although that said, while NCIS is a traditional cop show investigative whodunnit, Bull is more of a legal ‘how are they doing to get the client out of that?’ format that extends all the way back to the classic Perry Mason series of the 1950s. Read the rest of this entry »

Runaway Jury (2003) [DVD]

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I can’t think why I had a sudden urge to dig out this DVD, but I’m glad I did because it’s one of those classy quality films that Hollywood used to make and which now seem hard to find among the blockbusters, sequels and genre movies.

It’s based on a John Grisham legal thriller, with the twist for this one being its focus on seeing the US courts through the eyes of the jury as well as those in the defence and prosecution teams charged with analysing, interpreting, influencing and manipulating the jury to the ‘right’ decision for their respective sides. And in this trial, a third party calling herself Marlee (Rachel Weisz) comes into play who says that she can ‘sell’ the verdict to the highest bidder.

That’s the basis for a courtroom drama mixed with con and heist elements in which nothing is quite what it seems, with touches of action and conspiracy thrillers for good measure. Since the film is all about getting the jurors to fall into line there’s an uncommon focus on character drama as well, and there’s a terrific cast to bring the large number of dramatis personae to life: John Cusack is the star of the film as juror Nick Easter, with Cliff Curtis, Gerry Bamman, Jennifer Beal, Luis Guzmán and Rusty Schwimmer among those bringing the rest of the jury box to life. Read the rest of this entry »