The whole production outshines its story, making it look like the first-class thriller it isn't.


A Illusion review by Joan Ellis.

"The Juror" is Annie Laird, who lives at #4 Seminary Way in a marvelous old house as a single mom raising her son Oliver (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and making interactive sculptures. When Annie is called to serve on a jury for the murder trial of a major mobster, she welcomes the distraction from the isolation of her creative life.

Defendant Louie Boffano has a hired gun, a.k.a. the "teacher" (Alec Baldwin), who scans the jury box for a vulnerable juror, and there sits Annie with an implied "me" written on her forehead. At that moment, the teacher lays on his campaign to win her "not guilty" vote with charm and the promise to buy her art.

The pretense is shattered when, while making love to Annie, he reveals his mission: give us your vote or your son dies. Don't even think of asking why Annie does not go to the press, which would spread the news aboutjury tampering throughout the nation. Don't wonder why she doesn't head straight for the judge or the prosecutor, or why she doesn't hold Oliver close by her side. Don't, in any way, pause to question the logic or you'll give up and leave.

If you are still in your seat, you have accepted this scenario: Annie will fight the teacher for her son's life single-handedly. The suspense quotient inherent in these impossible odds is strangely pallid. The movie drags for long periods while we watch hopefully for signs that small subplots will erupt in excitement. They don't. Because the movie builds slowly to an old-fashioned chase that grabs us only in the final moments, we are left to focus entirely on Alec Baldwin and Demi Moore.

While that's not all bad, it's not enough. Playing every nuance of his part, Baldwin paints a marvelous psychopath who is two-thirds evil and one-third intellectual. The fact that he makes this an interesting mix helps the film immeasurably. Although Demi Moore does better work here than in her usual mode of trying to be a star, a one-note terrorized mom, who is denied any logical actions by the script, is not compelling. Moore is an actress who has been elevated to star status without the presence to sustain her own image.

The supporting cast is fine. Anne Heche does good, innovative work as Annie's friend Juliet; Joseph Gordon-Levitt is appealing as Oliver; James Gandolfini brings at least two dimensions to the cardboard role of a henchman just doing his job.

What's to be said about the sudden move from the Golden Gate bridge to the Guatemalan jungle? Not much. It's an alien shift, with little justification as a plot driver. But these scenes, like the whole picture, are filmed with a certain inspiration. The whole production outshines its story, making it look like the first-class thriller it isn't. If you like this sort of thing, you might want to wait for the next Grisham.

Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Word Count : 498
Studio : Columbia
Rating : R
Running Time: 1h56m

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