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an old story, an important question, a great performance by a great actor
blanche-21 April 2006
I saw "The Verdict" when it was released in 1982 and just watched it again. It is amazing what of the film I retained in memory. Most of what I remembered was the sheer brilliance of Paul Newman. In seeing it the second time, I'm 24 years older, I've worked for attorneys, I've had an experience with the justice system. And still, what I take away from "The Verdict" is the sheer brilliance of Paul Newman. After Matthew McConnaughey made "A Time to Kill," he asked his agents if he could meet Paul Newman. I guess someone told him they were similar. Newman said to him, "This is a time to not take yourself seriously and your work very seriously." When Matthew McConnaughey has a 50+ year career, you'll talk (I'll be gone) - but it's evident that Paul Newman takes his work very seriously indeed.

"The Verdict" is an old story - the drunken attorney who takes a case -think "The People Against O'Hara" for one - but this one has a stunning cast which includes Jack Warden, James Mason, Charlotte Rampling and Lindsay Crouse. And it asks one of life's great questions - what do you do when losing is just not an option? Drunken, disillusioned, ambulance-chasing Frank Galvin takes a slam-dunk hospital negligence case thrown to him by an investigator friend (Warden). His expert witness tells him he can win. So Galvin doesn't tell his client about a lowball offer, takes the thing to trial, loses his star witness, hires a pathetic expert, is reported by his client for failing to give them the offer they would have happily taken - simply put, there's no paddle but if he doesn't get down the river, any hope of reconstituting his life is over. Gone. David Mamet's script stacks everything against Frank but when you're fighting for your life, failure is not an option.

Newman is a wonder with his loser posture and hyperventilation and his desperateness. It's in his voice, it's on his face, it's in his smile, it's in his shaking hands. He's up against James Mason and his huge law firm, a smug, well-dressed bunch who will stop at nothing to win. One might think this type of firm is a cliché; it isn't. One of the characters says it best - "You have no loyalty to anyone, you don't care who you hurt. You're all whores." Unfortunately in real life, all attorneys are pretty much the same, but at least in film we occasionally are shown a decent one. When this film was made, the public had not yet been subjected to the Dream Team, the Robert Blake Case, the Menendez Brothers. But even today, knowing better, you can't help but buy into Newman's frantic sincerity.

The rest of the cast is uniformly excellent, with top honors going to Mason's smooth Concannon and Lindsay Crouse, who gives us the most powerful five minutes of the film with her magnificent performance as the admission nurse.

Is it a manipulative film? As hell. Is it feel good? You betcha. But take it from someone who knows an unfortunate truth - that justice is for the rich who pull in favors and have the money to fight, everyone lies their teeth off, and the jury system is sad - if I can be swept away by "The Verdict" and by Paul Newman's performance (another Oscar he was cheated out of) - you're gonna eat it up.
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Newman amazing as drunken lawyer in story of redemption...
Don-10210 March 1999
The title of this movie is deceiving. THE VERDICT suggests a courtroom drama, something like TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, or INHERIT THE WIND. It does have some riveting court scenes, but what happens outside of court and to Paul Newman is the real attraction here. The title not only refers to the inevitable decision of the important case of the film, but also to how the Newman character is going to live the rest of his life. Should he sell out and take the easy settlement, or take the highly regarded archdiocese of Boston to court for real justice. These are the questions Newman must face in this profound drama that seems more like a picture of the 70's than an 80's film.

Director Sidney Lumet has dealt with the legal system before in his first film, 12 ANGRY MEN. He takes it to a more personal level and Paul Newman, one of the finest actors of the past 40 years, is the person to do it. He is a legend and he bares his soul as attorney Frank Galvin, a lonely, corrupt drunk whose license to practice law is hanging by a thread. Jack Warden plays his trusty assistant who gets him a case that could help Frank change his life. Warden, however, has had enough.

Newman plays an excellent drunk, even cracking an egg into an 8am beer to start his day. This is a dim looking movie, shot during a cold winter in Boston. There are no great shots, or even any emotionally-rousing speeches, but this is Lumet's style. It is plodding and we see into the life of a lawyer on the ropes. James Mason is perfect as the slimy defense lawyer. Newman is constantly underestimated because of past failures. He is a drunk, but he still has some tricks up his sleeve.

NOTE: Look closely at the closing argument given by Newman. In the background, you can glimpse a then-unknown Bruce Willis.
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The Best of Newman
jjh651916 June 2002
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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One of the Best Courtroom Dramas of Cinema History
claudio_carvalho7 March 2012
In Boston, the former successful lawyer Frank Galvin (Paul Newman) is presently a divorced and decadent alcoholic ambulance chaser, searching funerals in the obituary to get new clients.

His friend and former professor Mickey Morrissey (Jack Warden) brings one client to Frank, Deborah Ann Kaye (Susan Benenson), who reports that her sister lost her baby in the delivery and had brain damage in the St. Catherine Labouré Hospital due to the medical malpractice.

Frank meets Dr. Gruber (Lewis Stadlen), who tells that the woman received wrong anesthetic and drown in her own vomit due to negligence of Dr. Marx and the anesthetist Dr. Towler (Wesley Addy). Further, he offers to witness in court and Frank sees the chance of going to trial against the Archdiocese of Boston and win the case.

Frank goes to the hospital to take pictures of Deborah's sister and he is affected by the vegetative state of the woman. Out of the blue, Bishop Brophy (Edward Binns) summons Frank and offers an endowment of US$ 210,000.00 to drop the case. However Frank sees the chance to bring justice to the family; save his career and earn respect and he does not accept the small fortune.

Frank calls Mickey to help him in the investigation, but he finds difficulties, since his unethical opponent Ed Concannon (James Mason) anticipates his actions and Dr. Gruber mysteriously travels to the Caribbean to spend a week on vacation and Judge Hoyle (Milo O'Shea) tries to force him to accept the settling. Meanwhile Frank meets the gorgeous Laura Fischer (Charlotte Rampling) in a bar and they have a love affair. But when Mickey seeks cigarette in her purse, he makes a discovery that will hurt Frank.

"The Verdict" is one of the best courtroom dramas of cinema history with one of the best performances of Paul Newman. Directed by Sidney Lumet, "The Verdict" is also the third work of the talented David Mamet that wrote the great screenplay with an unusual (open) end for an American movie.

I saw this film in the 80's in the movie theater; than on VHS and today I have just seen on DVD and I realize that after almost thirty years, this film has not aged. The magnificent cast has top-notch performances and I love Charlotte Rampling in this film, who is also very elegant and beautiful. My vote is nine.

Title (Brazil): "O Veredicto" ("The Verdict")
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one of the best legal dramas ever
Ajtlawyer20 June 2002
"The Verdict" is simply one of the best legal dramas ever done. Of course much of what happens in the movie is unrealistic and wouldn't happen in a real case but the movie isn't a study in courtroom procedure (watch the fantastic "Anatomy of a Murder" for that) it is a study about redemption and in that respect it excels.

This movie captures Paul Newman's finest screen performance and that alone makes it an important movie. The scenes where Newman hardly says anything show how great an actor he is---his look of self-loathing when he's thrown out of the funeral home, his palsied hand and lost look when he's trying to drink his whiskey, his panic when Charlotte Rampling lambastes him for being a failure. Then throw into that his terrific courtroom scenes, his arguments with the judge in chambers, it is just a sensational performance all around.

The level of acting is high all around in this movie. James Mason was Oscar nominated for playing the silky smooth, totally corrupt defense attorney. Jack Warden shines as Frank Galvin's world-weary former law partner. Lindsey Crouse has a small role as a nurse but is given the most powerful and dramatic moment in the entire movie. Her cross-examination by James Mason is where the movie really shines and shows that Paul Newman can keep his ego in check. How many movies give the most powerful and dramatic moment of the film to one of the secondary players? How many lead actors would be willing to just sit there quiet in a chair while a bit player and the second male lead share the big moment? It was a bold decision by both Newman, director Sidney Lumet and writer David Mamet and it is unforgettable.

The movie shows the two extremes of the practice of law. James Mason's win-at-all-costs cheating and Paul Newman getting so emotionally wrapped up in the case that he is no longer protecting his client's interests and instead is out to settle his own personal scores. A great, great movie.
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One of the best courtroom dramas
bkoganbing27 June 2005
I've always believed that actors are drawn to courtroom material because of the inherent conflict within them makes for good drama and good parts. They're quite a few of them in The Verdict.

This has always been my favorite Paul Newman film, it's the one he should have won the Oscar for. His Frank Galvin is not the noblest of creatures, he's a once promising attorney now an alcoholic ambulance chaser. But the skills are still there and he shows them battling tremendous odds. Thirty years earlier Frank Capra could easily have made this the subject of one of his populist dramas.

Newman gets great support from an outstanding cast. James Mason, Jack Warden, Charlotte Rampling, Joe Seneca deliver some outstanding performances. The one I particularly liked here was Milo O'Shea as the corrupt and biased judge.

Most of the great courtroom dramas have been about criminal cases. The Verdict was a landmark film that set the stage for the success of other great films about civil cases, including A Civil Action and Erin Brockovich. Those I don't think would have been made but for the critical and popular success of The Verdict.

Paul Newman was never better on screen.
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The difference between what is legal and what is just
budikavlan13 November 2002
I like that this film shows how the criminal justice system, solid though it is, has cracks that can prevent justice being done, and that the people participating in it have to have the courage to recognize them. This film has turned out to be a seminal one: legal drama has turned overwhelmingly to rumination of the moral interstices of the law like the one portrayed here. Without "The Verdict," we wouldn't have "The Practice." Gone are the days when all of Perry Mason's clients were innocent.

Paul Newman's performance has been justifiably enshrined in the pantheon of Circumstances When The Academy Dropped The Ball. But what made the film a truly emotional performance for me was Lindsay Crouse as the pivotal witness. The entire ensemble was flawless, as was the incredible atmosphere. "The Verdict" is probably too serious for some movie fans, and that's OK--no film can please everyone. But if you like to be given something to think about by your entertainments, this is the film for you.
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Newman should have won the Oscar for this one.
joseph t12 February 2001
If Newman hadn't been up against Ghandi, he probably would have. I think the Academy realized their error and Newman's win for The Color of Money was really for his portrayal of Frank Galvin, in this well-done tale of moral decrepitude and ultimate redemption. Writer Mamet and Director Lumet are into heavy symbolism throughout, with the scene of the developing Poloroids of the victim (the case becomes clear in Galvin's mind), to Galvin's pilfering of a woman's mail to run down a lead on a potential witness. The closing statement of Newman's character to the jury is powerful.
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In Primis
rmax30482319 June 2002
Warning: Spoilers
This one really isn't to be missed, certainly among the best of the courtroom dramas.

The acting. Well, first of all, nobody is bad. The most nearly negligible performance is by Wesley Addy, who at least looks the part of the elegant doctor and who is a competent actor. The other principals are outstanding. Charlotte Rampling with that odd face -- sultriness imposed kicking and screaming upon boniness -- is unusually good and even manages to project a kind of believable guilty remorse, which has never been her strong suit. James Mason is (almost)unflappable as Concannon, attorney for the defense. Marvelous, the way he puts quotation marks around the word "expert" while questioning the plaintiff's witness. Edward Binns is stolid as the savvy but moral bishop who wants to wrap things up without making waves. "What is the truth?", he asks Newman. Jack Warden is plumply likable, as always. He's seems to have aged more than Binns, with whom he'd worked a quarter of a century earlier in "Twelve Angry Men." Lindsay Crouse in a small but crucial role is appealingly Irish. Milo O'Shea is sliminess itself. I don't know why, perhaps his impish accent, but there is always something amusing about him, as if unable to quite shake what Erving Goffman called "role distance," the knowledge that he's playing a part accompanied by an awareness of the absurdity of doing so.

Even Bruce Willis is in this, playing a visitor to the courtroom. I was an atmosphere person in a Boston courtroom too, in "From the Hip" -- a far superior movie. (Ask anybody. Ask my mother.)

And Paul Newman is flawless. Robert Redford was supposed to play Frankie Galvin, but he wouldn't have been up to the part. The role requires the compelling anguish that Newman brings to it, and he does it perfectly. Redford is much too cool for that. I will mention just one scene of Newman's that is emblematic. He stands in his darkened office -- Warden watching soundlessly from the background -- and calls the defendants' law firm about a settlement they have already withdrawn. He paces around talking into the phone, hardly able to breathe, congested with not just mucous but self hatred, cajoling them, pounding on the desk with his knuckles, filled with an empty bravado. Redford couldn't do it. Practically nobody could do it.

Almost everything fits together perfectly in this film. Sidney Lumet opens with a shot of Newman alone in silhouette playing a pinball machine in a Boston bar, drinking beer. The pinball game serves as a token for the trajectory of his life during the course of the film. Wardrobe: first-rate. How "New England." Multi-layered dark clothing, (in Newman's case black), woolly and fussy. Sound: excellent. Little noises, hardly noticeable, form almost a background score. The old wooden floors creak when people step on them. An example of one or two good creaks: the scene in Concannon's office when he is welcoming Laura back to the law. Twirled-up telephone lines squeak when someone pulls on them. The tinkling of ice cubes in liquor glasses. The heavy breathing of nervous or defeated people. The slamming of ancient desk drawers. Garbage trucks groaning and whining in the city streets at dawn.

Production design: as good as it gets. Everything looks old, as if it has been used and lived in for years, not shabby but burnished with age, all mahogany wood and scarlet carpets. Lighting and photography: up there with the best. Most scenes are dark -- it's midwinter in Boston -- but not too dark, cleverly lighted. The snow in the streets is literally blue, as if it had just leaped out of an impressionist landscape. Tree branches glisten with moisture on slick night-time streets. Tinsel draped along a bar ceiling twinkles with fraudulent joy.

The weakness? The movie is so good I hate to mention it, but the script leaves something to be desired. It almost betrays the characters. I don't mind the legal absurdities so much. Okay, so things would never really happen this way. The judge would have to grant a continuance and so forth. It's not so much that as the motivation and the set speeches that are bothersome, especially Newman's, and they're critical. The banter and small talk are fine.

But Newman's conversion from a drunken, cynical ambulance chaser to a principled attorney of reawakened morals in the course of two-minute photo session with a comatose patient is patently unbelievable. Where did all that conscience (if that's what it is?) suddenly come from? He flops backwards as if stunned. Why? The script does its best to back up his epiphany. The images of his patient develop as a real person, not just a dollar sign, on the Polaroid photos, a mirror image of what's going on in his mind.

But as Warden repeatedly points out, his job is to win some money for his clients so they can leave their comatose sister in good care and get on with their lives in Tucson. Instead he turns down the church's offer because he sees a trial as a challenge to his personal pride, as a "means of redemption". (Is that kind of pride a mortal or a venial sin?) He loses sight of what the whole legal process is about because of this self-involvement. It wouldn't be so bad if he realized this but in fact he never gives it a thought.

Finally, Newman's summation: it sounds as if it had been put together by some high school kid whose homework assignment was to write an essay (of at least two hundred words) about "what life means to me." "I believe there is justice in our hearts," says Newman, more to himself than to the jury. No kidding.

None of this criticism can subtract from all the other virtues of the film. It's among the best of its kind.
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Paul Newman. One of America's best actors.
christinebrny24 June 2007
An aging, alcoholic attorney, prone to panic attacks,(please don't pressure me) finds himself at a cross-road. If he does what he and everyone else wants, he will be lost.The people around him decided their course and show their true character.(Excellent acting by the supporting cast). With the exception of humor, this movie has it all. Powerful attorneys, the Church, romance, a hurting family, deceitful doctors who harm rather than heal, betrayal. Paul Newman, as Frank Galvin, is so convincing in his desire to do the right thing but feels more at home in the bar than at the bar. Life has not been kind to him but his summation shows us what kind of a man he is. I love this movie because of it's underdog element and for the opportunity we all have to decide what kind of a human being we are at our core. I hurt for Frank Galvin and Paul Neman's acting gave me that response. I believe this is his finest performance.
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One of my all time top twenty films, definitely Newmans best
marshall-penn10 August 2007
I can only agree wholeheartedly with the first submission about this film, it is one of the most grown up works of American cinema that i have ever seen. Everything about the film is just great - Newmans Frank Galvin is a truly great character, and it just shows how great an actor Newman is when he can portray someone washed up so well, when as a person he has lived a very fulfilling and successful life. As a character study it is superlative, and there are no wasted moments - just like Training Day there is not one wasted moment in the film. The way he is chastised by the sister and her husband for being 'Just like all the others' when in fact he isn't, he actually knows that it is an occasion to really address the issue properly, yet risks all by doing so - shows the kind of contradiction that rarely is shown in films. Cutting, biting wit. A film for grown ups. Fabulous.
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a fantastic movie from start to finish--one of the best of the 80s
MartinHafer12 June 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Although Paul Newman has received MANY accolades for his acting, this movie, to me, stands out as the best of all his many wonderful performances. Newman plays an alcoholic has-been lawyer who has pretty much given up on making a difference. He is an "ambulance chaser" whose only goal is to arrange a quick settlement--regardless of whether or not his clients deserve more or nothing at all (a "nuisance lawyer"). He plays this role exceptionally well and the writing and directing much also be credited.

Out of the blue, he takes a case where the client has a really good case and deserves a very large judgment. However, Newman is planning on just making a quick settlement regardless of whether or not it was fair for anyone. However, over time, for once, he has a hard time living with himself and eventually decides to fight. However, the archdiocese being sued hires a team of top-rate lawyers and Newman finally refuses to back down and take a settlement.

You MUST watch this movie!!!
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Lumet and Mamet
tieman647 April 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Paul Newman plays Frank Galvin, an alcoholic lawyer whose legal career is in shambles. When a routine malpractice case is thrown his way, Frank gets one last chance to prove himself. Initially he simply goes through the motions, but when he meets the victim, a young woman who has suffered complications during childbirth and is now reduced to a permanently comatose state, he approaches the case with newfound resolve.

Rejecting a Catholic hospital's offer of a financial settlement, Frank decides to take the case to court. Here he battles both for his client's rights and for his own dignity.

Three big names elevate the film: David Mamet, Paul Newman and Sidney Lumet. Newman gives a great performance and the film is littered with 3 or 4 amazingly acted scenes, all of which play on Frank's sense of shame. Meanwhile, David Mamet provides a suspenseful screenplay, which somehow manages to lift itself above the clichés. Finally, Lumet's direction is beautifully low key. The film is slow during its first half hour, but things quickly pick up pace.

8/10 - Not as good as Lumet's "12 Angry Men" or "The Pawnbroker", but still an excellent courtroom movie. The film has no fancy pyrotechnics, courtroom standoffs, set pieces or monologues, relying instead on quiet dialogue. The film benefits from a familiarity with some of Newman's younger roles.

Worth one viewing.
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One of the Best; A Classic. Newman shines, Mason stings.
scott0316 October 2007
I'm getting a little older and typing less, but I can still watch a film (in this case, 17 times) and know when I see brilliance. Now it's time to share a few thoughts. First, Newman is always good...but this is "different". This is no "Slap Shot" or "The Sting" Newman; he is perfect in his role as Galvin, and deserved the Oscar. I really can't think of a bad performance, or scene, in this film. If I had to pick one, I'd single out Lindsay Crouse...she always seems to come across as "wooden" she shows some "emotion", but her timing and delivery take away from it. So, Paul Newman is at his best here, as is James Mason (a devilish best). The movie is about redemption, reward, conscience, power, money, The Church, the "system"...and how a hopeless lawyer somehow has his "lightbulb moment"...and against all odds "does the right thing". That Lumet went with the original script/screenplay makes one wonder what the OTHERS were like, but everything in this film, the story, the characters, the lighting, the underlying plot(s) come together to make one of those "perfect" movies. After 17 viewings the only bad thing I can say is that I felt the titling (though perfect in its sense of movement and delivery) could have been better (the Old English Script seems over-the-top). But even the TITLES demand watching...Newman nursing a beer, playing pinball, dark lighting, all we see and hear is Newman and the sound of the pinball machine as the opening credits roll...then we fade into the film. You've got to see this movie at least once; go back again and catch some of the "other" things going on. This is what film-making is all about; an excellent cast, script, and situation. They don't make them like this anymore (although The Shawshank Redemption comes close). I give this one 10 stars; it should be required viewing for aspiring attorneys so that they never lose the "human side" of things. THAT cause may be lost, but The Verdict is very close to perfection; an excellent film. Peace.
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Best Court Room Movie EVER
Lolly222210 April 2007
As always, Paul Newman makes acting look so easy. All his gestures, how he tells that cute joke in the bar, how he moves, speaks, well, you know, he just is the master. But if you want to enjoy Jack Warden who brings it all on, or Milo O'Shea, another veteran, and of course James Mason, his pauses, his mannerisms, don't miss this gem. The script, tight, seamless. Terrific film and I won't give any of it away. I own this film and as far as I am concerned, this is one fine movie to have in your collection.

There are many quotable quotes: "I don't think I am talking out of school . . ." The scene picking the jury with Jack Warden in the background. The camaraderie between these two is something that you want to believe they took home off the set. Newman: "you want me to go wee wee wee all the way home."
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It'll be difficult to find a better courtroom drama.
Councillor300410 September 2017
"The Verdict" has to be called one of the finest courtroom-law dramas of all time, certainly a movie which deserves more recognition than it actually received over the course of the years since its publication. While the plot itself remains rather grounded and straight-forward without any particularly groundbreaking elements, Paul Newman's masterful performance as well as the great supporting actors and actresses are what helps this drama in succeeding at depicting what it aims to depict.

Newman plays an attorney who needs to pull himself together from his drinking problem in order to win a lawsuit surrounding the case of a woman suffering severe brain damage at a hospital. It should come as no surprise that Newman completely immerses himself in the role in a way only Paul Newman can be expected to. The dialogues are another main part of the movie's most intriguing aspects, flowing so well together that it's almost impossible to lose attention of what's happening. At its heart, the movie is not just a courtroom drama, it's about humans dealing with their personal conditions and problems, and it's a movie which knows how to form a bond with viewers and keep them connected to the characters.

Sadly, the movie has not reached a status as a classic of the 1980's. Perhaps it simply was not memorable enough to most viewers, or perhaps it is too fine a movie in a decade remembered mostly for action movies, horror flicks or comedies. However, if you love watching a great performance in a great movie, then "The Verdict" cannot be recommended highly enough.
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A great Newman film
lastliberal14 April 2007
I saw that A Civil Action was on this weekend and it reminded me of another great film - this one. With 30 years of acting under his belt, Paul Newman gave an outstanding performance as a drunk, washed-up lawyer that was handed a cakewalk that he proceeded to screw up. He managed to come out smelling like a rose through luck and skill as a lawyer. Newman was superb! He should have gotten an Oscar for this film, and I am not saying that just because I like seeing someone stick it to the high and mighty.

Sidney Lumet was also great as director as should have been rewarded for this and not just given an honorary Oscar.

Bruce Willis has another walk-on role.
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maybe not one of the very best I've seen from Lumet, but from Newman...
Quinoa198429 May 2006
Sidney Lumet reaches into a certain style in this film that took me a few minutes to, if the word is right, adjust to. One might almost think the way he keeps the camera on a character or goes for the shots keeping the characters far away (long-shots) or in dark spaces (when not in the courtroom) or seemingly small in the scope of the areas around then, as detached. It is, but there-in lies his talents as a director, by letting the acting- slow but very sturdy and all based on David Mamet's script (also not one of his very best, but then again different from his plays). It's not a great film by the director as some have gone to lengths to write about, but it is one that is resonating further as I write this, and does successfully dig into further what it means to be a lawyer, or just trying to live, when odds are stacked against you. I'm almost reminded of a European director here, searching under the obvious in the story- points of which in the case that could just as well be on an OK episode of Law & Order- doing more of a character study than a full-on courtroom drama.

It helps, however, that Paul Newman is at the top of his game here, giving a performance that is textured, if that's a word to use as well, and kind of sad. He's playing Frank Gavin as much of a tragic figure as a real human being here, and there's a scene where he is in his office at a big moment of doubt "there is no other case, there is no other case". Newman is able to tap into what Lumet and Mamet have in the material superlatively, as if he knows how this character thinks. The early scenes show him as a low-level guy, ambulance chaser, who gets a case of a malpractice of a woman. In one of the most crucial and successful scenes in the film (for both director, writer and star), Gavin takes a couple of Polaroids of the girl in the hospital, seemingly just doing his work, but then has a pause, and the photos come into focus. This kind of change-of-thought has been done in other dramas to be sure, but here it really clicks with the pace, the mood and timing from Newman, and how this situation is given room to breathe.

If the rest of the film doesn't follow this same pattern it's not necessarily a full-on crutch. The courtroom scenes themselves are very good, with James Mason (among other British character actors) convincing in their roles of the more 'weighty' side of the court. Jack Warden adds some presence too as Gavin's partner (and adds a memory of Lumet's own classic 12 Angry Men). Only the sub-plot between Newman and Rampling seems just slightly off. Her character is necessary for the film, and there are one or two excellent scenes with her in it (particularly the one with him feeling most shaky before the trial). But her part is that of a more conventional picture, and her motivations are only made so clear as to not be totally believable. The final scene between her and Newman is maybe the best out of all of them, but it goes without saying that it's mainly a credit to him and Lumet, a kind of catharsis that is laid on that does add a fine point.

The Verdict is not really one of those films that is "over-rated" in the scope of things, and it's possibly more of the deserved Oscar nominated turns for Newman when compared to The Color of Money (good, not great there). It's worth seeing again, even as it is a different kind of courtroom picture, where the good and evil in man is not as revealed as in Lumet's first feature, but there are some poignant scenes of the need of redemption for a broken person.
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Engaging Courtroom Drama, Inspiring Character Study ...
ElMaruecan826 January 2011
The man is a failure ... he's a failure because circumstances made him so. He's no different than you and me. He's just unlucky. And you know how it is. Adversity calls adversity. You lose your job, your wife leaves you, you start drinking, you can't have another job back and like that, you're labeled as a failure, a loser. Frank Galvin, played by Paul Newman, is one of them. A loser. A Boston lawyer, he became what they call an "ambulance chaser". A man who gives you a card during your father's funeral to tell you he was a friend of him. The first scenes of Lumet's "The Verdict" clearly announces the character as a man who's not your typical Paul Newman's character, he's no Hud, no Cool Hand Luke, no Eddie Felson, yet it's one of the most brilliant and masterful performances from the late actor.

Frank Galvin hasn't solved a case in years. He hasn't won anything. He developed a 'brilliant' reputation that totally discredited him in the profession. Obviously, something must change in his life and Galvin, although not much appreciated, has one true friend : Mick, played by the late Jack Warden, who manages to get him a golden case to get back on the rails. A guaranteed win if Galvin accepts. He does, but for selfish reasons, at least at first. He cares for people, he cares for the case, but something is burning inside him: he cares for himself. There is a profound desire of redemption calling from the bottom of his soul, he tries to find the right way and this case is the promised land for him. A young mother condemned to coma for the rest of her life, for what appears to be a medical error. Obviously, Galvin can't fail.

BUT. What is failure? and what is success? That's the genius of the film. When Galvin takes snapshots of the poor victim, he realizes one thing he didn't quite get at the beginning. She's a victim of a criminal injustice. It's clear. Any other thing is a lie, any other attempt to silence the truth is criminal, and anyone who accepts that is accomplice. Anyone who accepts anything he believes against, whether because it is untrue or unjust, is a weak. The weak is the one who doesn't believe in his own principles, by not following them. The weak can win if he joins the liars, the cheaters, the winners, to win by default, but he'll always be weak, because he doesn't believe in himself, and will forever live with that. There's no salvation for the weak even if he wins. Galvin might be a loser, but he's not weak.

Galvin is flawed, indeed. He has many weaknesses, alcohol being the biggest one, but his evolution all through the movie is a great example of an inspiring character study, from the brilliant director, Sidney Lumet (who, in 1982, had an already impressive and qualitative filmography). Galvin shows how justice is an abstract but powerful idea that can only live through our deep faith in our success in the quest for truth, because what is true, implies justice. Justice's blindness is a noble concept except when the blindness is deliberate. That is corruption, blinding justice, disguising it, using influence to silence it. Galvin despises this kind of corruption, refuses the generous offer from the opposite side, who like the people he defends, doesn't want a trial and prefers an out-of-court settlement. But HIS mission is personal, though he doesn't fight for selfish reasons anymore, but for his idea of justice. And hell yes, they'll go to trial.

It's quite ironic that the movie lost the Best Picture Award to "Gandhi", when Galvin is almost a Gandhi-like figure when you examine his ideas and beliefs. Everything is against him, yet he believes he's right. Gandhi said "Even if you are a minority of one, the truth is the truth", this is Galvin's spirit. He believes in himself, he's given a mission that will redeem him, by bringing justice to the unfortunate couple, to a family devastated by the loss of a young woman. In this case, the opposite side is defended by the powerful, suave, charmingly villainous, Ed Concannon, brilliantly portrayed by James Mason. Concannon practices law with such perfectionism and obedience, the case is like David vs. Goliath. Evertyhing seems lost, everyone is against Galvin, including a memorable one-sided judge. But he goes on, despite his fears, his mistakes, his clumsiness, the way he seems so unsure of his words ... Frank Galvin doesn't have the phlegm of Atticus Finch, nor the flamboyance of Hans Rolfe, or the charisma of Arthur Kirkland, but his weaknesses make him 'strong' and the case 'personal' in the noblest sense of the word.

This movie is probably one of the greatest courtroom dramas ever directed, because it gives its true meaning to the word 'justice'. Justice is not about values, it's about faith, it's a blind faith which makes us take all the risks, because ironically, justice can only be accomplished through 'illegal' ways when the opposite side buries important elements under obscure judiciary concepts and in these cases, when the system is against Justice. Frank Galvin was against the system, and believed in Justice. He's a hero.

Frank Galvin fought for an idea of Justice threatened by the system, men like the judge or Concannon, who make justice, sometimes, unfair. "The Verdict" is the greatest courtroom drama because it is the one that gives you the greatest faith in justice ...
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"If we are to have faith in justice, we need only to believe in ourselves."
ackstasis29 November 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Before we launch into my full review, I have something of a shameful confession to make. Paul Newman is considered one of the finest actors that Hollywood has ever produced, his long career producing a great abundance of terrific films and stunning performances. And now for the confession: 'The Verdict (1982)' is the earliest film in which I've seen Paul Newman. Having seen his solid performances in 'The Hudsucker Proxy (1994)' and especially 'Road to Perdition (2002),' I already have great respect for his talents, but it'd be ignorant to deny that I'm still yet to experience his finest hours. In Sidney Lumet's 1982 courtroom drama, Newman plays Frank Galvin an aging, alcoholic lawyer who, a long time ago, lost whatever confidence and self-respect he once had. The film also boasts an impressive supporting cast, including James Mason, Jack Warden and Charlotte Rampling.

Newman really is superb in the film's main role. His Frank Galvin is a tortured character: once an honest and successful lawyer, Frank's career and marriage were ruined after his employers framed him for jury-tampering, reducing him to a disheartened, immoral "ambulance-chaser" in order to survive. His good friend and colleague, Mickey Morrissey (Jack Warden), is dismayed at his deterioration, but nonetheless agrees to offer Frank one final case, which is sure to be settled easily outside court. However, after visiting his comatose client – her life forever destroyed by the negligence of the hospital doctors – Frank spies redemption within his grasp, and so resolves to achieve justice at any cost. Rounding off the perfect triangle of veteran performers (each of whom had worked with director Sidney Lumet previously) is Jason Mason, who plays respected lawyer Ed Concannon with such composure and acumen that you're almost willing to declare him the winner of the case.

When it comes to discussing 'The Verdict,' Lumet's cinematic debut '12 Angry Men (1957)' seems the natural comparison, though that's yet another classic that I haven't seen {Sidney Lumet has recently become my director-to-watch, after producing one of the most thrilling movies ever made, 'Fail-Safe (1964)'}. Lumet gives the entire film a wintry, coldly-detached tone, with the camera often settled in the distance and making effective use of long shots. The script was penned by David Mamet from a novel by Barry Reed, cruelly placing obstacle after obstacle on Frank Galvin's path to redemption, until his self-esteem is all but destroyed. It is only through the encouragement of Mickey Morrissey and recent-girlfriend Laura Fischer (Charlotte Rampling) that Frank can find the strength to continue the trial, though the latter also plays a more sinister role in the unfolding of the case.

'The Verdict' is certainly one of the top ten most compelling legal dramas I've come across. Though Newman's final address to the jury is not quite as rousing as the equivalents in 'To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)' or 'Breaker Morant (1980),' for example, the film is held aloft by three superb veteran performances and its admirable sense of moral justice. Though the infinitely-shrewd Ed Concannon manages to convince the biased judge (Milo O'Shea) to completely disregard the damning testimony of the admitting nurse, Kaitlin Costello (Lindsay Crouse), he can't convince the honest jurors to forget what they have heard. In strict legal terms, Ed Concannon mounted the perfect case, but simple human decency directed the jury to reach a verdict that was morally just.
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What a wonderful movie!
egabbehe7 October 2006
I just watched this movie on Encore, confusing it with my memory of Absence of Malice. It turned out I had never seen it. I just want to say that I was completely drawn into this movie, could not move, and felt that it was beautifully written, with almost lyrical words out of a pained Paul Newman near the end. I have always loved Paul Newman, and I think this movie should have been very highly rated. The screenplay by Mamet also needs to be applauded in addition to Paul's understated and brilliant acting. I also enjoyed very much the actor who played the judge.........I remember him from Romeo and Juliet (the Friar) and his clear adherence to the law and his eloquent overruling of Paul Newman's witness was beautifully delivered. The witness herself did an excellent job. This movie was rich in layers of acting, and totally believable. The scene with one of the Catholic bishops speaking with others over tea near the end of the film was also very well presented. If you like quiet, rich movies, with very realistic performances, and also a sense of subtle spirituality, you should like this excellent movie.
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The Utmost Example of the Effectiveness of Narrative Structure in Cinema
jzappa2 November 2008
This, the utmost example of people involved in making a film who truly know exactly what they are doing, tells the story of a pathetic alcoholic lawyer, scraping the bottom of the barrel, who presses on with a medical malpractice case, which has left a girl brain-dead in a permanently vegetative state, in order to improve his own situation, but discovers along the way that he is doing the right thing, crusading in the interest of justice for the wronged girl.

Paul Newman is entirely persuasive as the boozing attorney, who beneath his morose impotence is a relentless force. We are surprised by how strict he can be in his behavior and belief systems during the case he takes. He is intently alert, always putting his own needs ahead of any responsibility to others. A lonely man, he stays far from the maddening crowd. For him, life is a burdened practice, not to be wasted away idly, which is precisely what is happening to his life as the film opens, finding him going from funeral to funeral attempting to con the bereaved into believing that he knew the deceased loved ones and wants to make sure they're represented by someone who cares. Every day he gropes drunkenly to apprehend it and wring as much profit as he can.

The reason such a premise works so well is because of the wisdom and mechanics of David Mamet's writing. The internal problem that begins the story, which is an adaptation of a bestselling novel by American trial lawyer Barry Reed, Newman's hopelessness, is succeeded by the external predicament, the highly lucrative case which embodies all the murky details of medical, clerical and legal procedure. Jack Warden, Charlotte Rampling and James Mason are introduced, and our hero Paul Newman finds himself with the decision to fight all- encompassing immorality, for which he is no match, or to accept it, which screams with the practical leverage he needs to get his life back together. He rejects to take the juicy settlement, which compels us into the upsetting second section of the film.

Like many traditional stories after the turning point, this one splits into two parts, the arrangement and the decisive moment at which the outcome seems to be clear. Mamet constructs his scenes so that they correspond to the arrangements for the trial, juxtaposing the enormous legal cart James Mason is mounting, under whose wheels devotees would throw themselves to be smashed, counter to the disorganized, hit or miss undertaking Galvin's running. Characteristically, the stronger the opponent and the weaker the hero, the more pungent the drama and the more severe the ascending friction.

At the point at which things are at their lowest, the scenes have amassed in a callous, inescapable direction. The only element that seems to come from left field is the signature Mamet revelation, which is held back from Newman but not from the audience. It's delicate letting the audience ahead of the hero, because it takes the big chance of making the hero out to be misunderstood by us as stupid, but Mamet had no other place to set the scene, one that if you are familiar enough with his work can clearly see that he could not help but use, and skillfully uses it to make things seem even gloomier to us than they do to the protagonist. It generates sympathy for him, not condescension.

The Verdict is a tribute to classic structure, which determines that character is plot. Ideally, if you're going to have a character arrive on the scene in a story long enough to tell someone how to go to the bathroom, this individual had better be full enough that we can almost assume where they were before the story happened upon them.

Not one scene is needless or redundant. It is film composition at its most succinct, with each scene leading crisply and unavoidably into the next with a story development that is hardnosed in its importance. Sidney Lumet's old-fashioned sense of being a movie director has served him well, especially early in his career, as he hides the presence behind the camera and manipulates what is in front of it and how long it takes to show it. He leaves the gist of things to the screenwriter. His masterpiece Network was one of the few films one can truly say was a writer's movie. Frankly, I think The Verdict is also a writer's movie, because Lumet's perspective of film direction is letting the writer create the story so that the director can tell it.

A true testament to this is that Lumet conserves the essential task of a movie, a succession of images contrasting so that the difference between them triggers the story to broaden within the position of the viewer. Once we get the point of a scene, whether the action within it is finished or not, the film moves on. This is precisely what Mamet would come to do when he began directing his own films.
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one of my favorites; Charlotte Rampling is quietly stunning
schnoidl3 September 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Everyone is giving Paul Newman all the props for this movie, and I agree he's great in it, but for me the real joy in this is Charlotte Rampling, who is so worn down by life that she almost blends into the background. She doesn't even have to speak, just those defeated haunted eyes do it all. She can do plenty with just a single word; in one scene Newman asks her if she'd like a drink, and she instantly says yes reflexively, flatly, without emotion. In the scene when he confronts her in the bar, her eyes are so expressive, it's chilling.

Though it's one of my favorite movies, I really hate how it ended. She really wanted to talk to him, and never had a chance. All the big characters got to be winners, she got cast off like old news. I guess that's better than an easy ending with everybody and Lassie all beaming at the moon while the strings swell, so I guess it gets a pass. Still, what a fine ember of spirit got snuffed.
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Newman in unbeatable form, in this poignant masterwork about truth, justice, the law and redemption...
galileo328 May 2009
Warning: Spoilers
The Verdict (1982)

Top 3 - 1982

The Verdict, another excellent achievement for the magnificent Sidney Lumet (12 Angry Men) is the kind of film that shakes the insides, makes you think and consider things such as truth, morality, redemption and justice. Lumet does the same thing he does with 12 Angry Men in this film, he simply, without any tricks or fancy work expose us to the flaws of the law and justice, and how the rich nearly always gain the upper hand, but not always as this film shows. As Frank Galvin (Newman) says the court gives the poor and powerless a chance and sometimes they can walk out with something.

Paul Newman proves in 'The Verdict' why his name stands amongst the Hollywood elite; his performance is truly magnificent. He plays a drunk, divorced, washed up Boston lawyer with a losing streak who gets a second chance to redeem himself. His boss/partner brings him a case so easy to settle out of court that he could make a bunch of money and not worry about a thing; about a Boston Catholic Hospital who administered the wrong anaesthetic to a young woman and destroyed her life; she is in a coma; deprived of speech, sound and vision. Galvin visits the Catholic bishop in relation to St. Catherine's hospital for a quick settlement, but on his way there he goes to see the girl; he sees the pain, destruction of a life... Galvin rejects $210,000 ($70,000) which would go straight in his pockets. Why? He can't be paid off to look the other way while a girl is paralysed and dying on a hospital bed. He takes them to court, despite disbelief from both the opposition and the judge himself.

The story follows, as the powerful, defence attorney team rattle Newman's cage, through a variety of ways, leaving him with no ideas; but he fights, he does not surrender, he has a truth to fight for, he wants real justice, he wants redemption, and he gets it eventually... He wins the case not on masterful inquisitiveness of the law, but working as a decent human being relying on the humanity of the jurors to see beyond all the smoke and mirrors of the defence...

The Verdict has great qualities; its the kind of film that is cathartic, satisfying while entertaining and superbly acted.

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