The Verdict

The Verdict (Sidney Lumet, 1982)

A lawyer sees the chance to salvage his career and self-respect by taking a medical malpractice case to trial rather than settling.

About ten years ago, or so, I saw Dog Day Afternoon Sidney Lumet’s near masterpiece that stars a young and once brilliant Al Pacino. As a director, Lumet is very talented and subtle. In my book of directors he is one of the most constant and underrated moviemaker of the American Cinema. Teaming with very talented screenwriter David Mamet and lead man Paul Newman, Lumet’s offers us with The Verdict more than just a simple courtroom drama. 

Attorney in Boston, Frank Galvin (Newman) is an ambulance follower and he past his days playing pinball and drinking beer instead of being at his office. His old friend and once law teacher Micky (Jack Warden) sets him up for a promising case of medical malpractice against a catholic Hospital and two of its doctors. While at once the trial seems to be won by the help of a superstar doctor for Galvin and his clients, when the trial begins the doctor has evaporated and the judge seemed to have already set his decision. Galvin’s drinking problem have disconnected him from reality but his encounter with the victim of the malpractice, who has been in a coma since four years and brain dead, will give him the strength and motivation to take this trial and do whatever he can to win it.

Since his first breakout picture The Hustler, Paul Newman has been a real star and his famous blue eyes and young wit has been his trademark. But in The Verdict he looks wasted, tired, and burned out. This depiction of frailty and weakness is one of the things that can be easily been badly acted. However, it brings to Newman’s act a side that we rarely see and creates astonishing moments. It is more a character study than only a courtroom drama in the case of The Verdict and very few actors can achieve this with mastery.

Of all the Sidney Lumet pictures that I’ve seen this might not be my favorite but still one of the pretty solid pictures he managed to direct. It is also the last of his movies that I needed to watch for my completion of the 1000 Greatest Films of All Time list. It might also be one of his is lesser known work that would gain in being better known.

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