When attorney Frank Calvin (Newman) is given an open-and-shut medical malpractice case that no one thinks he can win he courageously decides to refuse a settlement from the hospital. Instead he takes the case and the entire legal system to court... Sidney Lumet's riveting courtroom drama earned five Oscar nominations including Best Picture and Best Actor for Paul Newman's towering performance as a down-and-out alcoholic who stumbles onto one last chance to redeem himself.
The complete actor Paul Newman plays Frank Galvin, a washed up, alcoholic lawyer who's wife has abandoned him and his once glittering career is marred, unfairly of course, in disgrace, is offered a medical malpractice case by his friend and associate, Mickey (Jack warden), on the assumption that the defence will offer a quick out of court settlement for a large sum of money. The patient at the centre of the case is a a woman who's left in a coma after being given a knock-out anesthetic during childbirth. During a visit to the hospital run by the Catholic church in order to take some polaroid photographs of the helpless comatose woman in order to build strong supporting materials for a large payout, Frank finds himself moved as he watches the photographs come to life. This acts as a metaphor of the woman, that we don't really see become real to him. He begins to believe that there's something more at stake for him in this case than just a fat pay cheque. He feels that he has a chance at redemption.
In his quest for salvation, Frank takes on the Catholic Church and political establishment, coming up against the formidable defence attorney Ed Concannon (played by the magnificent James Mason) and his large legal team who rehearse every possible scenario to near perfection. The case offers Frank a reason to live and something to fight for. he feels a responsibility to stand up for the weak, in this case, someone who cannot have a voice of her own.
At first glance, a courtroom drama can seem like a dull affair but The Verdict is up there as not only one of the best films ever made in this genre but as one of the best films ever made, period. You have a towering and extremely watchable Paul Newman who gives a masterclass in acting. The film subtly opens up with Newman's character seemingly acting all sincere as he tries to drum up some business at funeral parlours to the families of automobile or industrial accidents. The beauty of this scene is that not only is Newman acting as Frank Galvin but he's now trying to hide his unpleasant nature from the mourners and even we're led to believe in his character until we see him in the next scene as he gets thrown out of another funeral home for repeatedly trying to con the grieving into making them believe he can win compensation for them. Paul Newman also adds characterization to his part by using a breath refresher to mask his smelly alcoholic breath as well as using eye drops to conceal the reds in his eyes which give us an in depth knowledge of the alcoholic that he is. Newman truly immerses every inch of his body into this part and we literally feel the weight on his shoulders as he struggles up a flight of stairs. He doesn't spare himself or the character he's playing. The cast who play the comatose woman's immediate family are so brilliantly honest that it shines an even brighter light on the falseness of Newman's protagonist.
You clearly have a writer in David Mamet and a director, Sidney Lumet who are on top of their game. Lumet is an actor's director and he brings out the best in the performances. Seemingly lesser details like the autumnal colours seen throughout the movie only add to the doom and gloom that surrounds Frank Galvin's despairing life. The enormous locations such as the hospital, the courthouse and the catholic headquarters only add to the magnitude of the institutions that Frank must face.
The Verdict is clearly a film about redemption. Nevertheless what makes this film even more special is that it isn't limited to this rubic. Far more is captured within the web of the story such as the desperate attempt by the church to cover up the terrible negligence committed by its doctors upon the woman and the corrupt nature of the lawmen. This of course worried the actual Catholic authorities who saw the film as an attack on the church itself. The great directors are able to do this so long as the profound message is something more human. On a superficial level the film does say that large institutions often get away with murder but ultimately what the film is truly about is salvation. These subliminal attacks on the ills of societies are beautifully concealed inside the seductive emotions of the main character as he tries to do the right thing.
The Verdict builds and builds the pressures that Frank must face. Just when he appears to be winning, he finds himself struggling to overcome the obstacles but each time, he rises, driven by his new lease of life and a purpose to correct the error of his ways. We see his true character emerge from underneath the rubble that is his rough exterior.
The only criticism of the film is that the opposing forces against Frank's success are shown as pretty unsavoury people. This makes me feel that the writer's a little on the didactic side. The film could have weighed each living issue and experience all its possibilities, to see the positive and negative from both sides.
Sometimes it's worth slowing down a little and settling into a legal drama, but the problem can be in finding a good one in a genre swamped with rather lazy John Grisham adaptations. The Verdict is one of the very best, directed by Sidney Lumet who gave us the definitive 12 Angry Men.
Frank Galvin (Paul Newman) is an alcoholic 'ambulance chaser' lawyer, preying on the recently bereaved. His long suffering friend, Mickey, played by dependable Jack Warden, has lined Frank up with an easy case that could pay enough for him to pull himself together. A young girl has been left in a coma by doctors at a renowned Catholic hospital who are willing to settle. All he has to do is take the cheque. Or he could fight for justice and his own redemption (doing the right thing is a favoured theme of Lumet's, such as in Serpico). Something clicks when Frank sees the comatose girl in a beautiful moment while he takes Polaroids for evidence, which linger on the screen.
What might Paul Newman's best role be? There are many great ones, but this could be it. In fact, I think this is one of the great film performances of all time; he invests Frank with such weight and he wins you over immediately, even at the start when he is at his most worthless. Every ounce of his being goes into the character and it's the tiniest things you remember. The subtle weariness, the breaking voice, but always those famous eyes give you a glimpse of what's left of his spirit. The moment when he refuses the hospitals money is quietly powerful with his lonely, awkward dignity. But it is a layered performance, not without humour, which usually comes to the fore in the banter with the lazy yet charming Judge (Milo O'Shea). The scene where they lock horns over an Objection is an absolute delight.
The judge may be biased, but no courtroom battle is complete without the real villain though: James Mason as an all-powerful, any means necessary defence lawyer. If you're familiar with the genre and with James Mason, you may have already assumed what he's like. I bet you're wrong! Mason plays him as a cross between an old grandfather and kindly head teacher, who treats his team like family. But what a delivery! You don't doubt for a single second just how ruthless he can be.
There is a slight weak spot in the film with Charlotte Rampling as Laura, a beautiful mature woman who captures Frank's imagination. Rampling is excellent and there are a couple of stand-out scenes, but ultimately, I found her character superfluous. Still she adds a haunting note at the end, so I can't imagine the story without her.
Lumet's steady direction is married with gorgeous lighting in a natural Autumnal palette, and strikingly realistic. Johnny Mandel's score is fascinating as it is frequently at odds with what is on-screen, occasionally dipping into a horror styling. Just listen when Frank visits and she refuses to be sympathetic, leading to him having a mini panic attack in the bathroom (Newman will break you in that moment if he hasn't already); the music is low and sinister, reminding me of Herrman's Taxi Driver. Actually, considering the story is about redemption and starts with Frank having almost no humanity left, you might think of this as a Taxi Driver for lawyers. It isn't as abrasive though and you'll be willing Frank to stay the course. It is absolutely his story and very satisfying.
There is a strong sense of faith and religion running through the story, from a typically sharp, yet less showy screenplay by David Mamet. It's not obvious (except that he is taking on a Catholic hospital) and instead simmers with quiet resolve to the expected summation, where Frank is clearly speaking of himself as much as the case. Such scenes are clichés, but certain genres need them and it is a fantastic piece of writing, acting and direction as Frank delivers his plea and the films coda, that everyone has a responsibility to justice.
I may have made it sound heavy, but trust in both Mamet's and Newman's unmistakeable style that makes it very watchable. Between their smooth wit and Lumet's old fashioned skill, the film has an infectious rhythm that makes it flow. The Verdict is a marvellous gem that you won't regret seeking out.
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Sidney Lumet's court-room drama. Frank Galvin (Paul Newman) is a failed lawyer battling to regain his dignity and give up his dependence on alcohol. He takes on a case of medical misconduct in which a woman has lapsed into a coma after being given too much anaesthetic in childbirth, and in so doing is forced to take on a prominent and powerful Boston Catholic hospital.
Please note this is a region 2 DVD and will require a region 2 (Europe) or region Free DVD Player in order to play When attorney Frank Calvin (Newman) is given an open-and-shut medical malpractice case that no one thinks he can win he courageously decides to refuse a settlement from the hospital Instead he takes the case and the entire legal system to court Sidney Lumet&39;s riveting courtroom drama earned five Oscar nominations including Best Picture and Best Actor for Paul Newman&39;s towering performance as a down-and-out alcoholic who stumbles onto one last chance to redeem himself Actors Paul Newman Charlotte Rampling Jack Warden James Mason Milo O&39;Shea Lindsay Crouse Ed Binns Roxanne Hart Wesley Addy & Joe SenecaDirector Sidney LumetCertificate 15 years and overYear 1982Screen Widescreen 1851 AnamorphicLanguages EnglishDuration 2 hours and 5 minutes (approx)