1982 | Courtroom Drama | 129 minutes | In English
Frank Galvin is a has-been lawyer and a big time alcoholic. He spends his time in bars and playing pinball machines. Out of compassion, Mickey Morrissey, his friend and former teacher, throws him a malpractice case. The supposed negligence during surgery at a Catholic hospital ended up with the woman patient brain-dead. Mickey assures Frank that this is the kind of case that’s always settled. With little work, Frank can make a quick buck. But after Frank visits the comatose patient, he decides not to settle and take the case to trial. The patient’s relatives are furious as is the presiding judge. Mickey agrees to help Frank but things quickly go wrong. The vital medical expert they counted on disappears; the credentials of the back-up medical expert are questioned; no one who was in the operating room is willing to testify; and the hospital is being represented by high-powered and well-connected lawyer, Ed Concannon. Frank’s break comes when he discovers that the admitting nurse, Kaitlin Costello, is now a pre-school teacher and is willing to testify. Her testimony reveals the hospital’s negligence. But the clever Concannon convinces the judge to throw it out the testimony on a technicality. Frank is now left with no case but he does give a passionate closing statement. As Frank awaits the jury’s decision, he feels he has done his best. And, more importantly, by fighting the hospital rather than accepting its settlement, he has regained his lost self-esteem.
Why Stream This Film?
- Rotten Tomatoes Score (Critics Consensus): 93%
- Metacritic Score: 77
- Academy Awards: Nominated, Best Picture; Best Actor (Paul Newman); Best Actor in a SupportingRole (James Mason); Best Director (Sidney Lumet); Best Adapted Screenplay (David Mamet)
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The screenplay by David Mamet is a wonder of good dialogue, strongly seen characters and a structure that pays off in the big courtroom scene—as the genre requires. Frank Galvin provides Paul Newman with the occasion for one of his great performances.
A solidly old-fashioned courtroom drama such as THE VERDICT could have gotten by with a serious, measured performance from its leading man, or it could have worked well with a dazzling movie-star turn. The fact that Paul Newman delivers both makes a clever, suspenseful, entertaining movie even better.
Newman’s portrayal of his character is a sympathetic and totally candid performance. Every wart shows, from his alcoholism to the ill-prepared opening statement he delivers in a nervous stammer to the packed courtroom. Small moments come across as something special, and the actor received a well-deserved Oscar nomination for his performance.
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