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Wadrick's Celluloid Dungeon

The Verdict (1982)

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Starring Paul Newman, James Mason, Charlotte Rampling, Milo O’Shea & Jack Warden.
Written by David Mamet.
Directed by Sidney Lumet.
 
Frank Galvin (Newman) is an ambulance-chasing, alcoholic attorney, crashing wakes and spending the remainder of his time in bars playing pinball. When an old friend hands him a case involving malpractice at a Catholic hospital, it seems a no-brainer that will be settled out of court, netting Galvin a handsome commission. But upon visiting the victim tied to a machine in a hospital ward, he is suddenly struck by a sense of purpose and duty, and decides to go to trial against the advice of everyone involved. Drama doesn’t get much better than The Verdict, a film that should have seen Newman score his first Oscar. And if it’s drama you want, director Lumet is your man, having made such great films as Twelve Angry Men, Dog Day Afternoon, Network, Running On Empty and the recent Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead in a career that has spanned fifty years. His dry, sombre style suits the genre to perfection, yet anyone going into a Lumet film should know what to expect. His characters are often flawed and desperate, caught in the dreary mill of their own existence, and this is typified in Newman’s Galvin – a man, it would seem, so far past redemption that every move he makes sees him sink deeper into the quagmire. But, strangely, we want this character to succeed and we want to witness his transformation, because he is essentially righteous in his conviction. Languorously paced and somewhat depressing, The Verdict is nonetheless a gripping film, full of rich characterisations and striking atmosphere, and written with sophistication by the great David Mamet. One of my all-time favourites.
 
 
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By Wadrick Jones

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