Review by Gordon Justesen
Stars: Paul Newman,
Charlotte Rampling, Jack Warden, James Mason, Milo O’Shea 12, 2007
Director: Sidney Lumet
Audio: Dolby Surround, Mono, French Mono
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Features: See Review
Length: 129 Minutes
Release Date: June
“If we are to have faith in
justice, we need only to believe in ourselves…and act with justice.”
Paul Newman has long been one of our most treasured actors and Sidney Lumet’s powerful court drama, The Verdict, includes one of Newman’s most extraordinary performances. It is also one his most challenging roles in his career, as the character displays many flaws. He’s a drinking alcoholic who at the beginning of the film seems too hopeless to redeem himself, until a once in a lifetime kind of case comes along, which can do nothing short of saving himself and redeeming his once brilliant career.
Newman portrays Frank Galvin, a once unbeatable and renowned Boston lawyer. He’s now at the bottom of the barrel, drinking constantly and becoming the worst kind of ambulance chaser, though in this case he chases clients down at funeral parlors. At the point when he’s come very close to turning away everyone he has known, a one of a kind chance case comes his way.
It’s a big one, and it can very much redeem Frank. His closest assistant, Mickey (Jack Warden), has worked very hard to get Frank this case, believing very strongly in both the case and its ability to turn Frank’s life and career around. The case is an open-and-shut malpractice suit against a Catholic hospital in Boston where a young woman was carelessly turned into a vegetable because of a medical oversight. The deal is pretty simple. Galvin can expect to settle out-of-court and pocket a third of the settlement--enough to drink on for what little future he is likely to enjoy.
But Galvin makes the mistake of going to see the young victim in a hospital, where she is alive but in a coma. And something snaps inside of him. He determines to try this case, by God, and to prove that the doctors who took her mind away from her were guilty of incompetence and dishonesty. In Galvin's mind, bringing this case to court is one and the same thing with regaining his self-respect--with emerging from his own alcoholic coma. Galvin's redemption takes place within the framework of a courtroom thriller.
The screenplay by David Mamet is a masterwork of good dialogue, strongly seen characters, and a structure that pays off in the big courtroom scene. As a courtroom drama, The Verdict is superior work. But the director and the star of this film, Sidney Lumet and Paul Newman, seem to be going for something more; the film is more a character study than a thriller, and the buried suspense in this movie is more about Galvin's own life than about his latest case.
This is the first movie in which Newman has looked a little old, a little tired. There are moments when his face sags and his eyes seem terribly weary, and we can look ahead clearly to the old men he will be playing in ten years' time. Newman always has been an interesting actor, but sometimes his resiliency, his youthful vitality, have obscured his performances; he has a tendency to always look great, and that is not always what the role calls for. This time, he gives us old, bone-tired, hung over, trembling (and heroic) Frank Galvin, and we buy it lock, stock, and shot glass.
The movie is filled left and right with monumental acting, led by Newman and accompanied by a terrific Oscar nominated performance by James Mason as Ed Concannon, the defense attorney. Backed up by Sidney Lumet’s accurate directing and David Meet’s sharp as can be screenplay, The Verdict still holds up as one of the most superior courtroom dramas of our time.
Not top of the line quality, but certainly not the bottom of the barrel. Fox’s video transfer for The Verdict is actually exceptional given the age of the film, which is twenty years. Image quality is somewhat clear and crisp to a degree, but there are also some images that do turnout a bit soft and a little grainy, but nothing too distracting. An inch away from being a superior transfer.
Fox has tuned up a dialogue-oriented film and made it livelier, thanks mostly to a good 2.0 channel track. Dialogue is heard extremely clearly, and several settings provide nice distinct crowd noise. Again, nothing top of the line, but a lot better than expected.
Another fantastic Paul Newman film gets a stellar DVD upgrade with this new Two-Disc Collector’s Edition.
Disc One features a Commentary track with Paul Newman and director Sidney Lumet.
Disc Two includes 3 brand new featurettes; “Paul Newman: The Craft of Acting”, “Milestones in Cinema History: The Verdict” and “Sidney Lumet: The Craft of Directing”. There are also two additional featurettes and a Photo and Trailer Gallery.
In the film legacy of Paul Newman, The Verdict will forever remain a triumphant moment in the actor’s career, and remains one his finest moments on film to this day. It’s one of the most incredible character pieces you are likely to experience.