While many of the telepic’s points are clearly borrowed from the Simpson trial, Rosenberg has ably mixed in sufficient quantities of new elements, which are likely to hold viewer interest.
We the Jury (Wed. (16), 9-10:30 p.m., USA) Filmed in Toronto by Atlantis Films in association with USA Network. Executive producers, Peter Sussman, David Gerber, Edgar Sherick; producer, Larry Raskin; director, Sturla Gunnarsson; writer, Philip Rosenberg; director of photography, Maris Jansons; editor, Jeff Warren; art director, Charles Dunlop; sound, Chiam Gilad; music, Jonathan Goldsmith; casting, Dierdre Bowen, Darlene Kaplan.. Cast: Kelly McGillis, Christopher Plummer, Lauren Hutton, Janet Wright, Anais Granofsky, Nicky Guadagni, Karen Robinson, Carol Ng, Nicolas Campbell, George Touliatos, Conrad Dunn, Tyrone Benskin, Stuart Hughes, Maruska Stankova, Barry Flatman, David Hemblen, Roberta Maxwell, Richard Fitzpatric, Rachel Crawford, Dana Brooks, Michelle Duquet, Rosemary Dunsmore, Bruce McFee, Yank Azman, Barry Stevens, Ikkee Battle. It’s not quite “12 Angry Men” and none of the characters shines as brightly as Henry Fonda, but “We the Jury” is a taut drama that boasts some good perfs while tackling a deft examination of the pitfalls and benefits of the jury system in this post-O.J. verdict era. Telefilm’s starsLauren Hutton and Christopher Plummer deliver solid, highly enjoyable perfs as the murder suspect and the courtroom-savvy counselor who helps shape her defense.
As the vidpic begins, gritty hand-held camera footage (from d.p. Maris Jansons) lures in viewers as Emmy-winning talkshow hostess Wynne Atwood (Hutton) is arrested for the shooting death of her philandering hubby, a former architect whose career has waned in the shadow of his celebrity wife.
Atwood cops to the shooting, but the trial is undertaken to give the jury the opportunity to decide to what extent she’s culpable: first-degree murder or manslaughter. Rosenberg raises some valid criticisms of the jury system but cleverly disguises them as juror bickering. He crafts a first-rate examination of the mind set of the jurors and their inherent prejudices, which surface as they wrestle with doing what is right or what is likely to get them on “Nightline” after the verdict is reached.
The affable jury forewoman (Kelly McGillis) is charged with keeping the deliberations on track and the character attacks to a minimum after taking the helm when her predecessor is kicked off the panel for writing a book.
The show’s apex is Hutton’s testimony, in which she describes a torturous existence at the hands of her allegedly abusive and cheating husband. Her silky switch from celebrity ice princess to endearing girl-next-door should be required watching for wannabe thesps.
The charm in Plummer’s perf, as Atwood’s defender, is the subtlety with which he eviscerates a prosecution witness in one moment, then warmly solicits favorable testimony the next. He plays the gender card, the abuse excuse and works the courtroom like a pro.
McGillis’ understated effort speaks volumes about her character’s back story, which will likely keep viewers wondering what skeletons the demure and even-tempered leader has lurking in her emotional closet.
Director Sturla Gunnarsson wisely uses the confining jury room to convey the tension of a room full of strangers; the helmer, writer and producers give each character a significant presence and occasionally employ an item of evidence such as the murder weapon in a juror’s hand’s as a dramatic device to drive home a point as they argue over a verdict.