Frank Galvin was once a promising Boston lawyer with a bright future ahead. An incident early in his career in which he was trying to do the right thing led to him being fired from the prestigious law firm with which he was working, almost being disbarred, and his wife leaving him. Continually drowning his sorrows in booze, he is now an ambulance chasing lawyer, preying on the weak and vulnerable, and bending the truth whenever necessary to make what few dollars he has, as he has only had a few cases in the last few years, losing the last four. His only friend in the profession is his now retired ex-partner, Mickey Morrissey, who gets Frank a case, his fee solely a percentage of what his clients are awarded. The case should net Frank tens of thousands of dollars by settling out of court, that money which would at least get him back on his feet. It is a negligence suit brought on behalf of Deborah Ann Kaye by her sister and brother-in-law, Sally and Kevin Doneghy, against St. Catherine... Written by
I have seen this movie, on screen and as a video, many times. Each time, it gets better. This is no doubt the best acting by Paul Newman in his career. Why he didn't get the Oscar for this role, but instead got it for the lackluster "The Color of Money", is beyond me. The movie is actually about redemption, or the attempt to be redeemed.
His interpretation of Frank Galvin, a desperate, conniving, down-to-the-last-case attorney, is fascinating and totally convincing. And he has a fantastic supporting cast -- from Jack Warden as his partner, Charlotte Rampling as his chance for romantic redemption, Milo O'Shea as the corrupt judge, Lindsay Crouse as his surprising ace-up-his-sleeve, and most of all, in a landmark supporting actor role, James Mason as the seemingly distinguished and respected defense attorney.
And I found the direction by Sidney Lumet to be, once again, outstanding. Lumet has such a long list of great movies that you wonder why he has never won an Oscar or been given an AFI Lifetime Achievement award.
This is a riveting movie -- about the law, but mainly about the flawed nature of the human beings who are entrusted with it. Please hear Newman, as Frank Galvin, on his last, crippled, despairing leg, give the summation to the case. It needs to be carved in marble somewhere. David Mamet, who wrote the screenplay, deserves accolades for how he was able to hand Paul Newman such a moving summation. The summation is about life, not just the law. It is a masterpiece, worth seeing the entire movie for.
Most of all, it is Newman's Finest Hour.
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