Combustible Celluloid
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With: Paul Newman, Charlotte Rampling, Jack Warden, James Mason, Milo O'Shea, Lindsay Crouse, Edward Binns, Julie Bovasso, Roxanne Hart, James Handy, Wesley Addy, Joe Seneca, Lewis J. Stadlen, Kent Broadhurst, Colin Stinton
Written by: David Mamet, based on the novel by Barry Reed
Directed by: Sidney Lumet
MPAA Rating: R
Running Time: 129
Date: 12/08/1982

The Verdict (1982)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Court Cuts

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

The Verdict is one of director Sidney Lumet's finer films, a classic example of a fairly creaky story told with clarity, dignity, and intelligence. Paul Newman stars, in an Oscar-nominated performance, as Frank Galvin, a burned-out, alcoholic lawyer who plays pinball in a bar and attends funerals to hand out his card. A loyal former partner, Mickey (Jack Warden), gives him a simple, open-and-shut case, with which Frank could re-start his career. In a Catholic hospital, a pregnant woman was given the wrong type of anesthetic and turned into a vegetable. The hospital wishes to settle out of court, but Frank -- in a sudden burst of conscience or courage -- decides to fight them.

His case slowly goes south until some persistence and detective work finds that special, secret witness that blows the whole thing open. There is, of course, a girl, as there always is in these types of movies. She's Laura Fischer (Charlotte Rampling), and she does have a reason to be there, but it's a weak one. Mostly she just hangs around Frank, trying to make him feel better.

James Mason provides some color as the opposing counsel, prepping witnesses and smoothly giving orders to his large staff (he was also nominated for an Oscar, for Best Supporting Actor). Lumet films all this in his best big city style, with lots of grit and realism, but with a special sense of characters who are trapped and lost. He received a nomination for Best Director, his fourth and final in that category (he never won). David Mamet adapted the screenplay, and also received a nomination. It was nominated for Best Picture, but lost to Gandhi.

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