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VERDICT, THE

From the Nov. 17, 1982, Deseret News

THE VERDICT — Paul Newman, James Mason, Charlotte Rampling, Jack Warden, Milo O'Shea; directed by Sidney Lumet; rated R (profanity, some violence).

Frank Galvin has seen better days. In fact just about any of his other days were better than his life now.

He's a lawyer with an ethics problem, a disillusioned idealist who is now spending his days and night looking at the bottom of an empty bottle. And it's eating him up inside.

He's ready for something better to come along and help him pull out of his slump.

It comes along, in the form of a malpractice suit – though Galvin does not at first recognize it for what it is.

Paul Newman is Galvin in "The Verdict," an insightful, highly entertaining, satisfying probe of a man who has hit rock bottom and is about to slowly climb back up – not to the top, mind you. But up, nonetheless.

The medical malpractice suit is virtually a gift from a long-time friend and colleague Mickey (Jack Warden). Galvin is to take the case, settle out of court and wind up with a tidy sum to help him through the next little while.

But as he investigates the case, Galvin discovers that there was negligence on the doctor's part – and more importantly, he begins to believe that he can win in court.

But he won't win easily. Obstacle after obstacle is thrown in his path by the defense attorneys, a pack of corporate wolves led with grace and style by James Mason. Even the judge (Milo O'Shea) is against Newman's winning the case, and he outrageously and flamboyantly lets the world know when it finally does come to court.

Mickey helps, however, and Galvin's social life also seems to get back in shape with the help of a woman (Charlotte Rampling) he meets at his favorite hangout.

But all is not as it seems. And Newman, as Galvin, will be disillusioned again before this story ends.

"The Verdict," starkly directed by Sidney Lumet ("Prince of the City," "Deathtrap," "Twelve Angry Men") offers Newman his best role in years. Newman may have been nominated for an Oscar for "Absence of Malice" but he really deserves to win for "The Verdict."

His is a complex portrait of a man who is having a hard time reaching out for what he wants, for what he believes in. And Newman, in very much the opposite of his traditional "macho" image, is extremely convincing in the role. It's impossible to sit through this picture and not feel for his character.

The supporting cast is also very good, and Lumet doesn't let scenes run away as he did with his meticulous handling of "Prince of the City." There is an unfortunate tendency here for some elements to be contrived (when Newman picks up Rampling, she seems to be the only outsider in a small pub populated exclusively by Newman's friends) or pat (the staff of young attorneys under Mason are all too callous).

But the performances are all outstanding, and the script, by playwright David Mamet ("American Buffalo" and the screenplay for the recent remake of "The Postman Always Rings Twice") is full of excellent dialogue, and generally fulfilling ideas.

I don't want to give too much away but for all its downbeat trappings "The Verdict" is surprisingly a rather upbeat film. It's about the perseverance of human dignity against all odds, the triumph of ideals over manipulation – and, of course, right over wrong. Galvin doesn't need to win to come out on top.

And it's rated R strictly for profanity. Don't let the rating keep you from this one. The verdict on "The Verdict" is excellent.