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Runaway Agenda - October 20, 2003

By James L. Hirsen, J.D., Ph.D.
contributor to

James Hirsen,
Monday, Oct. 20, 2003

You'd think I'd know by now to have the Pepcid handy before turning on the "Today" show.

One recent airing of the program had Matt Lauer hosting a Second Amendment scoff session with renaissance "Rain Man" Dustin Hoffman, one of the stars of the new feature length gun grouse, "Runaway Jury."

And later in the program, Brady Campaign Board of Director member and suspense writer Richard North Patterson got a chance to hawk his new anti-gun book. It's a story about a president who fights a powerful D.C. lobbying group called the "Sons of the Second Amendment." (Anyone want to play find the hidden N.R.A. references here?)

Folks in Hollywood often bemoan the violence associated with real-life felonious firearm activity. But an accusation of hypocrisy isn't about to stop Left Coasters from hiring armed guards or packing heat themselves. And it isn't going to stop them from making dough off of provocative blood-soaked trash like "Texas Chainsaw Massacre."

Still, the big-screen version of John Grisham's "Runaway Jury," now spinning at movie theaters everywhere, is lurching even farther into the left lanes of society. And the media massage is not going unnoticed by those of us who take a non-fiction read of the Constitution.

In his original novel, Grisham was content to write about another favorite liberal villain ­ big tobacco. But remember Michael Mann's puff-away piece "The Insider"? Hollywood's been there, done that.

So instead, Tinseltown decided to sprinkle Grisham's idea with some liberal scary dust. And voilà ­ the tobacco companies were magically transformed into gun manufacturers.

The revised tale tells the story of a woman whose husband, along with 10 others, is brutally murdered in a brokerage office by a disgruntled gun-toting day trader. By filing a lawsuit, the widow takes on a wealthy powerful gun-making corporation, which has placed a type of semi-automatic handgun on the market.

In order to avoid a settlement, the greedy capitalist fiends hire jury consultant Rakin Fitch, who's played by Gene Hackman.

Speaking as a lawyer who's actually done a fair amount of jury consulting myself, the win-at-all-costs Fitch strategy is more akin to heavy-duty criminal behavior than any real-life jury analysis you're likely to see.

But what makes the whole thing really substandard, from a cinematic point of view, is that Hackman's character has as much depth as an aluminum can after a joy ride through the trash compactor.

Any character who cares the slightest bit about the Second Amendment is depicted as exceedingly wicked and generally wacked out.

In contrast, those who go after the gun industry spend most of their time adjusting haloes and exchanging goofy sympathetic grins.

One line in the movie, though, most succinctly captures the liberal message of "Runaway Jury." It's the one where the character sighs, "I believe in a gun-free world."

In the end, the clumsy use of the plot to push a political agenda detracts from Grisham's artful twist, where John Cusak's juror character carries out some counter-manipulation of his own. Unfortunately, the audience is left trying to reconcile the vile behavior of Cusak's character with the fruits of his larceny.

In the interest of accuracy, I give this flick 4 snaps Left.

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James L. Hirsen, J.D., Ph.D.

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