The Firm
The Pelican Brief


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The movie opens with a family celebrating their young son’s birthday. The father (Dylan McDermott) goes to work the next day at a brokerage firm and is discussing the birthday with his secretary when shots are heard throughout the floor.  McDermott and the secretary close the door and hide in his office while the secretary is put on hold by 911. McDermott listens to the door as the shots stop. A few moments later, the door flies open and the screen goes black with sounds of a gunshot. 

Two years later, the wife of the slain broker has hired a prominent New Orleans attorney Wendall Rohr (Dustin Hoffman) to sue the gun manufacturer who made the gun used to kill her husband. Rohr leaves his office with the widow and her son, assuring them that they have a winnable case since he has an ex-gun company executive prepared to testify about the company’s questionable practices. Outside, Rohr is approached by Lawrence Green (Jeremy Piven), a jury consultant who wants to help Rohr with the case. Green is insistant and reduces his usual fee to be on the case. Green insists he is needed because the other side has retained the best jury consultant there is: Rankin Fitch (Gene Hackman).

Fitch arrives in New Orleans and the cab driver begins asking a few questions about Fitch, which he gets wrong. Fitch looks over the dashboard and sees a rosary, a photo of an old woman in a wheelchair, and a receipt from a hospital parking garage.  He asks the driver how his mother is doing, which freaks out the driver. Fitch describes how the mother was in the hospital but now is at home with the son taking care of her and the wife doesn’t like it, which leaves the driver speechless. Fitch tells him to put the mother in a home since its better to have an unhappy mother than an angry wife. Fitch goes into an old building which has been converted in a secret high-tech surveillance center used to gather information on the potential jurors of the trial.

Nick Easter (John Cusak) receives a jury summons in the mail and announces to himself that “Christmas has come early.”

He goes to a Vodoo shop to buy a candle to pray his way out of jury duty.  A young lady named Marlee (Rachel Weisz) helps him pick a candle. Easter is followed the rest of the day by shadowy people, all the time asking friends how to get out of jury duty.  Back in Fitch’s center, they begin watching video of potential jurors. They include an overweight woman who appears self-conscious, a gung-ho ex-Marine drill instructor (Cliff Curtis), a preacher’s wife, and an alcoholic woman (Nora Dunn). They watch the footage of Easter, a video game store manager, who shows off a shooting game to Fitch’s mole. They decide Easter is harmless. Fitch meets with the CEO of the gun manufacturer and other executives who demand Fitch win since they’ve spent over $20 million dollars on the case.  Fitch assures them he will pick a jury that will side with them.

The day of jury selection, Fitch’s crew rig the defense attorney (Bruce Davison) with micro-phones, listening devices, hidden cameras, etc.  Basically Fitch is telling the attorneys what to do. The jury begins to be selected with Fitch getting the people he wants, from above while Green agrees with the same jurors.  Easter waits nervously for his turn and the jury is almost completely selected when he is finally polled.  Easter acts as if he doesn’t want to serve and keeps looking at his watch, so much that it angers the Judge (Bruce McGill). When asked what is so important, Easter says he’s too busy to be on the jury because he needs to prepare for a video game tournament. The judge gives him a lecture on civic responsibility and both sides decide to let Easter on. The jury is about complete when a blind man comes in and presents his summons. The judge tells the man he doesn’t have to serve because of his disability, but the man cites a legal precedent that gives him the right to be on the jury. He is also added. Both sides go home. 

Fitch and his team have all the jurors up on video screens discussing all the information they can find out about the people.

Rohr has a board in his conference room with their pictures and a brief description.  Easter goes to an out off the way apartment and hooks up with Marlee who also has a room full of the jurors pictures. Easter kisses Marlee and tells her how brilliant his excuse was to get on the jury.  They discuss if they have the jury.

The next day Rohr and Fitch each receive an envelope with a made-up composite of the jury with “Jury For Sale” on it. On the back is a message about the jury being bought for a lunch.  Before the trial begins, the jury meets in the morning and is given a menu for lunch from a deli down the street. They give their menus back to the bailiff, except Easter has two and crumples up the second one and tosses it out the window to Marlee, who is in disguise.  

The trial begins and Rohr questions the gun store owner who sold 100’s of automatic weapons to the same man each month. When asked if the gun manufacturer ever inquired into the unusual sales, the owner says he was given a cruise for superior sales. At lunch time the Jury gets together to discuss selecting a foreman.  The Ex-Marine is very upfront about being a leader and wanting to be foreman. Nick suggests the blind man since he seems to know something about the law. The others agree. Nick sees the alcoholic woman drinking from a bottle in her purse. Marlee calls the deli and cancels the jury’s lunch. The jury begins to get hungry and frustrated. 

Nick goes across the street to a posh restaurant where the judge is eating.  The judge gets very angry and says Nick should get back to his lunch. When Nick explains the jury has no lunch and he knows the judge likes to keep a tight schedule so he suggests the jury eat at the restaurant. As the jury eats, the lawyers both see what happens and understand the note.

Marlee calls both sides and says the jury is for sale for $10 million. Neither side believes her. She tells them that tomorrow the jury will be “patriotic”. The next morning, Nick comes in looking sad. He asks the Marine about Desert Storm. Nick says he had a friend who died in the war and today is his birthday. Nick wants to do something for his memory. As court begins, instead of sitting down, the jurors turn to the flag and begin reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, which makes everyone else stand back up and recite. Both sides realize someone is getting to the jury. Fitch reviews video of the jury box and notices as the jury sits back down, one woman pats Nick’s hand. He concludes Nick is the fixer. He sends his people out to Nick’s apartment to find out more. As the man is searching Nick’s apartment, Nick comes home and has a confrontation followed by a chase. The man gets away. Marlee calls Fitch and says since he’s not playing nice, he's going to lose a juror.

The next morning, Nick rubs stuff in his eyes and acts hung-over. The alcoholic notices it and asks if she can help. She says she has a pick-me-up for Nick and he accepts. As they reach under the table, Nick knocks the bottle out of her hand as the bailiff walks in. The two are taken before the judge and Nick claims the bottle is his. The judge says nice try but because there is lipstick all over the top, he knows it was the woman’s. Back in court, the juror is dismissed. Fitch is furious and wants everything about Nick. They find nothing, he doesn’t seem to exist. They find that Nick hid a computer file in his apartment that the guys missed the first time. They decide to go back. Green, the other sides jury consultant, also gets suspicious of Nick and go to his apartment and sees Fitche’s guys take stuff then burn it down. 

Green tells Rohr that Fitch is going to buy the Jury. Fitch meets with Marlee and discusses the $10 million and wants more proof that she can deliver. Rohr is upset Green was spying on a juror. He also meets with Marlee to hear her proposal. Nick presents hidden camera footage of Fitch’s guys in his apartment to the judge. The judge threatens a mistrial but decides instead to sequester the jury. Further proof to Fitch that Marlee and Nick are serious. 

On Nick’s hidden computer file they find other identities in other cities where there were gun trials. Fitch sends his investigator to find out who Nick is. He also puts pressure on the other jurors. The preachers wife is told they found out she had an abortion of some other man’s trial and she trys to kill herself. The overweight woman’s husband is arrested for bribery and told if she doesn’t side with the gun manufacturer, he’ll go to prison. Nick consoles her.

Rohr is still convinced he can win the trial fairly, but asks his partners if he can access $10 million from their emergency fund. Because of Fitch’s tactics, Marlee raises the price to $15 million. Fitch sends a hitman to find and confine her but she beats up the man and escapes. In court the day comes for the Executive to testify but he doesn’t show. Rohr knows Fitch got to him and they have a confrontation in the bathroom (great scene). 

Fitch agrees to the price but wants to meet Nick. They talk and Nick assures him that he has the jury. In court Rohr attacks the gun company CEO, asking why they advertise “finger print resistant” weapons and gets him to admit he doesn’t care who gets his guns.

Fitch’s investigator is lead to Indiana where he finds Nick’s real name at the law school he attended for a while. He also finds out Nick’s home town. Marlee offers the jury a last time to Rohr, who says stands by his integrity and says he won’t lower himself to buying the jury. Marlee contacts Fitch who agrees to wire the $15 million to an off-shore account. 

As court wraps up, the jury goes into deliberation. Fitch’s investigator finds Nick’s home town and Marlee’s mother. He pretends to be interested in buying a house in the neighborhood and the mother invites him in. 

The jury argues and Nick begins pushing them to side with the murdered woman. 

Back in Indiana, the investigator asks about the schools and the mother gets upset. She guesses the man is not from around there if he doesn’t know about the shooting? “Shooting?”, the investigator asks. Marlee’s mother shows a picture of Marlee and her sister in high school. The town suffered a Columbine-style shooting years ago and Marlee’s sister was killed. She shows the investigator a newspaper that shows Marlee and Nick at a memorial in front of the school. The investigator races to stop Fitch from transferring the money. Too late. 

Back in court, Nick has a showdown with the Marine about right and wrong. The jury goes into the courtroom as Fitch learns it’s a setup. 

The jury sides for Rohr and the widow for $100 million. 

Back in Fitch’s center, the police are coming and they have to quickly leave. Rohr and the woman are elated. Fitch goes to a bar for a drink and is confronted by Nick and Marlee. It seems their town sued the gun manufacturer after the high school shooting and Fitch fixed the case, which bankrupted the town. They show the wire transfer to Fitch and tell him if he ever practices in another case, they’ll turn the documents over to the government. Nick and Marlee leave and see Rohr from a distance. He realizes they helped him and smiles. It closes with Nick and Marlee looking at a school, saying how the $15 million will help their hometown rebound from the bankruptcy..


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