February 2, 1996 in Seven

‘Juror’ Simply Plods Along

Philip Wuntch Dallas Morning News
 

“The Juror” is guilty of implausibility, prolonged plot contrivances, bad acting and even worse direction. That’s not even counting the misdemeanors.

A couple of unexpected plot twists flirt with the notion that the movie miraculously might start percolating. But, mostly, it just drips along.

Single mom Annie Laird (Demi Moore) is chosen for the jury of a Mafia kingpin on trial for a brutal slaying. She thinks it will add some excitement to her humdrum life.

She doesn’t know what she’s getting into. A mysterious, exotic organized crime enforcer known within mob circles as the Teacher (Alec Baldwin) makes his presence known. At first he tries to romance Annie, but she’s not so easily trapped. So he levels with her: Either cast a not-guilty vote or she and her son will face the music.

Annie is supposed to be an unflaggingly sympathetic, heroic figure. She’s dedicated her life to her appealing, intuitive son, Oliver (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), and hasn’t had male companionship in longer than she’d care to discuss.

She’s also artistic. She creates unique “box sculptures” that are designed to be felt rather than seen. Ah, the sensitivity of it all!

But Moore’s heavy-handed performance robs the character of empathy. She makes every sentence a declaration. Granted, Annie doesn’t have much to laugh about, but Moore makes her unnecessarily lugubrious.

By contrast, Baldwin gives a lively, hammy portrayal of the ridiculously self-deluding Teacher, a man capable of justifying any action while convincing himself that he’s basically an upstanding human being.

Gordon-Levitt, currently seen in the sitcom “3rd Rock From the Sun,” does a good turn as Annie’s son, who will take only so much from his suddenly irritable mother.

The major felon is director Brian Gibson, who let the performances carry his well-received “What’s Love Got to Do With It?” In “The Juror,” his clumsiness sabotages even the most obligatory action scenes. A top-speed drive through winding roads, in which the Teacher terrorizes Annie while a drunk (whose presence is never adequately explained) lies passed out in the back seat, doesn’t even capture the fundamentals of where they’re going and why.

xxxx “THE JUROR” Location: East Sprague, Newport and Showboat cinemas Credits: Director Brian Gibson; starring Demi Moore, Alec Baldwin and Joseph Gordon-Levitt Running time: 2 hours Rating: R


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