Tried in a familiar venue, “The Juror” is a somewhat leisurely paced psychological thriller distinguished only by a kinetic, menacing performance by Alec Baldwin. While it’s nothing to write home about overall, audiences drawn to the leads and genre may still rule in favor of the pic as a solid if unspectacular box office attraction.
Ted Tally reportedly received $ 1 million for adapting George Dawes Green’s novel after providing similar service on “The Silence of the Lambs,” but any expectations predicated on that earlier film should quickly be put to rest.
Granted, Tally has helped craft another memorable psychopath in the form of Baldwin’s character, if one not nearly so meaty as Hannibal Lecter. And while “The Juror” does indeed try to be a thinking man’s thriller, it also proves to be a rather predictable one that drags in places almost as much as a televised court case. After her treacherous foray in “The Scarlet Letter,” Demi Moore is back on more familiar terrain playing Annie, a single mother targeted by the mob to swing the jury in a murder trial, with the looming threat that Baldwin as a mysterious hit man will kill her son (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) if things don’t work out as planned.
Oozing charm and malice, Baldwin — known only as the Teacher — terrorizes Moore’s character, bugging her house and endangering her child. Eventually, the woman gathers herself, hiding her son with a friend in Latin America before returning to try to turn the tables on her tormentor.
As he eavesdrops on Annie, the Teacher finds himself coming to admire her — his burgeoning fascination with his quarry nearly approaching camp as he begins to paper his walls with her picture.
Director Brian Gibson (“What’s Love Got to Do With It”) brings welcome restraint to the proceedings, but in the process sacrifices a degree of suspense , and the narrative endures a somewhat languid stretch after the trial before kicking into gear for a climactic segment that’s as easy to see coming as Baldwin in the midst of a Mayan parade.
Baldwin does have a role here worthy of his steely-eyed intensity, mixing ruthlessness with seductive charm, even if his boyish crush proves awkward at times.
Moore is believably frightened as the woman in peril, though she eventually begins applying those smarts that drew the Teacher to her in the first place with surprisingly effortless skill.
There’s also limited chemistry between the leads due to the nature of their relationship, though Baldwin does bring some heat to their scenes together.
Strictly from a box office standpoint, Moore may be a bit overexposed at this point, with three movies out in a 12-month period — a glut that might incline some fans to wait to see her (and, for that matter, more of her) in “Striptease, ” which is due out later this year.
Tech credits are sharp, with a good James Newton Howard score and some pretty shots of Mexico standing in for the jungles of Guatemala.