A disillusioned lawyer takes on a malpractice
case to try to salvage what's left of his career.
The Verdict (1982)
Directed by Sidney Lumet
Written by David Mamet
Starring Paul Newman, Charlotte Rampling, Jack Warden,
James Mason, Milo O'Shea, Lindsay Crouse, Roxanne Hart,
James Handy, Joe Seneca, Edward Binns, Wesley Addy
Based on the novel by Barry Reed
Oscar Nominations - Best Picture, Best Actor (Paul Newman),
Best Supporting Actor (James Mason), Best Director,
Best Adapted Screenplay
The Verdict is a phenomenal courtroom drama featuring an all-star cast of Hollywood legends like Paul Newman and James Mason in roles completely out of their comfort zone. Newman, who's usually so well-composed and confident in his leading roles, plays an alcoholic mess with zero self-respect left in his dwindling career. Mason, out of classic good guy Hollywood, plays a scumbag lawyer who tries to cheat his way through the trial. Together, these titans of cinema battle it out in the courtroom, upping the tension with a case that could truly go either way, despite the hefty consequences for either party. The Verdict is just so well put-together that it's a breath of fresh air.
Newman plays washed-up, ambulance-chasing lawyer Frank Galvin, who agrees to take on a malpractice case but goes against his clients' wishes and refuses to settle. Frank isn't your typical heroic lawyer. He's not Jimmy Stewart in Anatomy of a Murder. He's not the guy to bet on, and throughout the film, your confidence in him only lessens. But there's something that keeps him going, and it's something most of us only aspire to have. Hope. Only Paul Newman could bring this character to life in a believable way, and it ends up being one of his finest performances.
The Verdict sees the little guy going up against a hospital with the full support of the Catholic Church, which essentially makes this the David and Goliath of courtroom dramas. The trial scenes are riveting and intense, because there isn't a clear victor. The ending is not predictable, and I think that goes a long way towards making this film entertaining and enjoyable. The performances are stellar and the screenplay never feels forced. The characters feel like real people in a real situation. That speaks volumes for the skill of David Mamet, as well as the quality of this film.