`(1982): Movie Review

The Verdict (1982) Movie ReviewThe Verdict (1982) Movie Review

Frank Galvin (Paul Newman) is a down-on-his luck, alcoholic lawyer in Boston.  In the past three years, he’s had four cases and spends most of his time either at a bar playing pinball and shooting whiskey or peddling his business cards at funerals.  When a friend gets him an easy hospital negligence case, it becomes a chance at redemption for Frank.

Four years earlier, a young woman was given the wrong anesthetic while going into labor and has been a vegetable in a coma ever sense.  Her sister and brother-in-law are seeking justice from the Catholic hospital.  We get the feeling that the hospital and archdiocese have something to hide, especially when they’re willing to settle.  This should be an open-and-shut case for Frank, earning him enough money to let him drink away the rest of the time he has left.

Going to trial is more important to Frank than settling, he even turns down a settlement of  $200,000.  He seems to be risking everything for his own chance to prove himself to himself.  But for that selfish moment for redemption, has he underestimated his opponent, defense attorney Ed Concannon (James Mason), and put his trust in an enemy?

While all this sounds interesting, I think there are a very select few who would really enjoy this movie.  You see, it’s very quiet and its action consists of tense quiet moments, conversations and the subdued intensity within the courtroom.  To many, The Verdict would be two hours of quiet boredom.

However, I found a silver lining to all this quietness and found myself surprised at how tuned in I was to every word, action and soft sound presented.  I think that’s what viewers are supposed to do here, it’s like we’re listening for something important on a radio that keeps fading in and out.  There are many slow and quiet moments for us to focus all our senses on.  In one amazing shot, Frank is watching a couple Polaroids he just snapped of the victim in a coma develop.  They slowly come into focus and color, and the camera doesn’t look away.  All we hear is the quiet hiss and pump of the machines keeping the coma ward alive.  The longer we watch, wait and listen, these sounds become deafening, yet they aren’t really rising.  The Verdict is full of moments like this, where we wait, watch, and become enticed, agonizingly wanting that pin to drop and break the tension lingering in the air.  Though I would not recommend this film to the masses, those who find an appreciation for courtroom dramas, Sidney Lumet’s work and what I’ve described here are encouraged to seek The Verdict out.

“You guys… you guys are all the same!  The doctors at the hospital, you… it’s always what I’m going to do for you.  And then you screw up, and it’s, ‘Ah, we did the best that we could, I’m dreadfully sorry.’  And people like us live with your mistakes the rest of our lives.”

With a life long love of film and writing, Alyson Krier has decided to watch and review all the Best Picture nominees throughout the history of the Academy Awards on her ever expanding blog, The Best Picture Project.

  • John Primavera

    Newman’s finest hour.

  • Joe Glaeser

    A very fine film.

  • Spencer

    Have “the masses” become a lumbering horde of dumbasses, who think “The Jackass” movies are the pinnacle of filmmaking, & who demand refunds if a movie doesn’t have a fight, a car chase, or an explosion every 5 minutes? If not, then I fail to understand Ms. Krier’s hesitancy in not giving this movie a full-throated recommendation. “The Verdict” was an excellent movie, period. One of the better actors of our time gave one of his better performances completely playing against type (Paul Newman showing fear & uncertainty-what?). I’m old enough to have seen this movie in its original run nearly 30 years ago. After seeing it, “The Verdict’s” greatness was obvious; the only thing we argued about was whether Frank should’ve smacked Laura.

  • Nina

    One of the most powerful scenes in this movie is when the nurse Caitlin Price takes the stand to tell what REALLY happened to cause the patient to become a comatose mess. Such a great movie, a must see!

  • Susan

    I am surprised at Ms. Krier not writing a more favorable review. While I like how she captured moments in the film, reading her review was a little like listening to a radio station that keeps fading in & out. :)

    This is without a doubt one of Newman’s greatest performances, and many will agree THIS is the film he should have won best actor for. The quiet intensity of this movie is the canvass on which Lumet displays Newman’s ability. A great screenplay and supporting cast (LOVE Jack Warden & his hilarious line about “He’s the Prince of F’ing Darkness! He’ll have people testifying they saw her waterskiing in Marblehead last summer!”) make this an unforgettable movie experience- and that is what best pictures are all about. I’ll never forget the first time I saw this.

    Lastly, and don’t think I’m trying to be harsh, get it right. Spelling shouldn’t make me read the sentence twice (since vs. sense) and dollar amounts ($210,000 – remember him saying it occurred to him how easily 3 went into 210,000?) and these minor things do effect how people view your review. Just a constructive point offered with the sincere hope that you won’t be offended. :)

    P.S. I’m okay with that moment in the bar when he hit her- sometimes words fail and in this case, I’d almost say nothing else would have seemed right to *her* – but that’s imho.

  • Allen Hefner

    I agree with the others that The Verdict is an intelligent movie, worthy of full recommendation. It reminds me of the time I lent Waking Ned Devine to a friend. He watched it and returned it, saying that it was OK. His favorite movie is Coyote Ugly, which isn’t bad, but a totally different kind of movie. I guess the “eye candy” in Ugly is what he liked best.

    The moral here is not to try to sell The Verdict (or Waking Ned Devine) to a fan of movies starring Bruce Willis, Maria Bello or Elizabeth Berkley. Its not in the same league, but to each his own.

  • bonnerace

    I had heard a rumble in the newspaper (we actually, in the past, read reviews NOT in the internet) about what a great film this was. So, one afternoon after a visit to my doctor, I caught an afternoon matinee of THE VERDICT. I wasn’t surprised, being a fan of Newman and Lumet, but I was impressed by such a great movie being made in modern times. The director and the lead actor both should have won Oscars—most of the main supporting deserved them, too. Mason, Warden and Rampling were great. I own a copy and still pull it out occassionally. I’ve watched it over 30 times. Friends are surprised by it; a film that good with no action?!? My wife loves it, too.

  • MindyP51

    Can’t believe you gave this a lousy review. As another posted, this is Newman’s FINEST HOUR, and the supporting cast is awesome!

  • JessKoe30

    I find Paul Newman uber attractive in this film, not to mention his performance is dazzling.

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