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Verdict on 'The Juror': Guilty of stupidity


February 2, 1996
Web posted at: 3:30 p.m. EST

From CNN Movie Reviewer Carol Buckland

If movies could be sent to the slammer for committing acts of gross implausibility, "The Juror" would be doing 10 to life -- minimum! (1.1M QuickTime movie)

That multi-million-dollar woman, Demi Moore, is cast as Annie Laird, a struggling sculptress and single mom who, incredibly, is eager to disrupt her life to serve as a juror in the murder trial of a major mobster. No matter that the judge gives her every chance to back out. No matter that she's warned she'll be sequestered during deliberations. She's hot to do her civic duty!

Alec Baldwin plays The Teacher, a philosophy-spouting hit man who intimidates Annie into helping acquit the big boss. In between listening in on Annie's conversations, threatening to hurt her son, seducing her best friend, murdering several people, and discussing the Tao and the "insects" who threaten the true artists of the world, The Teacher develops what can only be described as an ill-placed passion for Annie. What can I say? He's a busy guy.


Anyway, Moore is okay as Annie, although I could never figure out why The Teacher pegged her as being so special. At the same time, because this alleged thriller is also supposed to be a tale of female empowerment in a time of adversity, she's forced to make a transition from vulnerable artistic air-head to tough-talking crime buster. Her character "arc" strains credulity -- and then some.

Baldwin seems suitably sinister as The Teacher. He uses his icy blue eyes and husky, "I'm-so-smart" voice effectively. Unfortunately, his obviously psychotic character is ill-conceived and cardboard. He's also a major motor mouth. After a while I was rooting for someone (anyone!) to shoot him just to get him to shut up.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt ("A River Runs Through It," "Angels in the Outfield") does nice work as Annie's son, Oliver. Anne Heche (some of you may know her from her Emmy-winning work on the daytime drama "Another World") is interesting as Annie's doctor friend, Juliet. Heche, incidentally, is the woman in this movie who gets naked with Baldwin -- not Moore.

James Gandolfini ("Crimson Tide," "Get Shorty") is unexpectedly sympathetic as a mob enforcer named Eddie. Yeah, he's a killer. Yeah, he connives in terrorizing Annie. But he seems almost ... likable. Maybe that's because he talks less than The Teacher.

Oscar-winning screenwriter Ted Tally wrote the script. It's based on the novel by George Dawes Green. While Tally has shown he has talent, his work here is littered with inconsistencies, coincidences and huge holes in logic. I have the feeling a lot of connective scenes were cut in the editing room.

Brian Gibson's ("What's Love Got to Do with It?") direction is slick one moment, sloppy the next. He has a thing for pregnant pauses. While this can be effective in evoking a feeling of suspense on some occasions, it's overdone in this film.

The bottom-line: "The Juror" (which bears more than a passing resemblance to last year's flop, "Trial by Jury," by the way) is guilty of serious cinematic stupidity. What's worse, it seems to think that movie-goers will be so-o-o-o-o-o caught up in its stars that they won't notice.

Don't waste your time or money.

The R-rating on this film is for violence (people get shot to death, blown up, drugged to death, etc.), profanity and sexual content.

"The Juror" is a Columbia Pictures release. It has a running time of 120 minutes.

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