The Verdict: Two-Disc Collector's Edition – DVD Review

Available at Amazon.com

Director

Sidney Lumet

Cast

Paul Newman ….Frank Galvin
Charlotte Rampling ….Laura Fischer
Jack Warden ….Mickey Morrissey
James Mason ….Ed Concannon
Milo O’Shea ….Judge Hoyle

The Movie

Not too many times can we look back at an actor’s extended body of work and see noticeable improvement over five decades. Most actors tend to plateau at a certain rate, stay there for an extended period of time, and then descend into the depths of mediocrity. There’s nothing wrong with it, as that seems to be the cycle of an actor. One tends to hit a peak, have a slew of films at said peak, and then slide down. Paul Newman has seemingly defied the odds and has left some of his best work near the end of his career. He may have been at his peak early with The Hustler and Cool Hand Luke in the 1960s and early 1970s, but Newman’s body of work still seemingly feels like it never dropped off significantly from his early days. The Verdict is proof of that.

Newman star as Frank Galvin, an alcoholic ambulance chaser at the end of his luck. Seemingly down and out, Galvin has one last shot at redemption in the form of his only client. She’s in a permanent coma after medical malpractice and Frank is suing the hospital on her behalf. After turning down a substantial offer to settle out of court, Frank decides to take on the high-powered legal firm representing the hospital in a vain attempt at redeeming what once was a promising legal career.

And nearly three decades in his career, Newman manages to craft a performance that topped what he’s done beforehand. It reflects a much more nuanced performance from Newman, as he’s refined his abilities to their absolute zenith. While it may not be his most memorable role, as Luke and Fast Eddie are more memorable characters, Galvin may be the best performance of the three. It’s what he does non verbally that is the key; Luke may have been a raw, emotional performance from the actor but Galvin is a much more refined version of the same sort of character. Both may have been looking for redemption, but Frank is the kind of character who’s been past his prime and is now looking to redeem a lifetime of bad choices and alcohol in one fell swoop. It’s an interesting take and the perfect sort of role for Newman, earning him an Oscar nomination along the way.

Every good hero needs a good foil, as well, and Ed Concannon (James Mason) is the perfect antithesis to Galvin. Mason is the perfect actor for the role, bringing the sort of dignity and self-assuredness that compliments Newman. The two have a solid chemistry opposite one another and it carries the film.

It doesn’t hurt that Sidney Lumet has a great script, and stronger directorial prowess, at his helm as well. This is a slow-moving and deliberately paced film, obviously, but everything moves slowly for a reason. This isn’t a redemption story all in one act, it develops over time. It’s a first rate thriller and a first rate legal drama, culminating in a surprising ending that works effectively.

A/V QUALITY CONTROL

Presented in an anamorphic widescreen format with a 1.85:1 aspect ratio, with a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, the film has had its quality upped since its first release on DVD. The picture comes through quite well, but this isn’t a colorful film. There are a lot of browns and dark grays, so bringing out any sort of color is much different because it’s a rather drab-looking film, but everything does come through cleanly. The film’s audio is much cleaner, as well, as it utilizes the full Dolby system.

The Extras

The Making of The Verdict is a featurette from 1982 meant to hype the film. With a short running time, the film is a true EPK piece as there’s nothing of note that is said other than the usual flatteries about everything.

Paul Newman: The Craft of Acting is a feature focusing on the venerable Newman and the character of Frank Galvin. Newman talks in depth on how he was able to focus on the character and what he used to find it. It’s illuminating in several aspects; on one hand, you have one of the best actors of a generation talking about how he prepared for one of the biggest roles of his career. It’s also interesting to hear Newman discuss how the film was made and how films were made by the older guard of actors and directors. Newman compares doing the film as closer to doing a television series, with the amount of rehearsals used because the film was shot out of order. It’s a frank discussion by Newman about what he spent his life doing through one of the big roles of his career that lasts about nine minutes.

Sidney Lumet: The Craft of Directing is the same as the Newman piece, except focusing on Lumet’s directorial career through one of his more acclaimed films. Lumet does a lot of work before he even begins production on the film, and he talks about what he did beforehand to slim the film down to what he thinks will end up in the final cut of the film. Lumet compares his style of directing, with lots of rehearsals, coming from his theatrical and television background. His thoughts are that his generation of directors was all the same way because they all came from that arena.

Milestones in Cinema History: The Verdict is a feature focusing on the film’s creation. The film’s script written by David Mamet initially didn’t have an ending, and was rejected in part because of it, the scripts that were written weren’t up to par and eventually Mamet’s was used with an ending written by the writer. It was a hot property that plenty of actors were seriously interested in including Frank Sinatra, Dustin Hoffman, Robert Redford and others all wanted the role that Paul Newman eventually received because he was Lumet’s first choice. Sinatra apparently was willing to work for free, or close to it, because he loved the part of Galvin so much. It’s a fascinating look at the film, as the principles behind it all talk about it in a frank and honest manner.

Hollywood Backstories: The Verdict is an AMC production that looks back on various films from beginning to end. Rehashing many of the same points as the “Milestones” featurette, with more of a historical perspective than the aforementioned featurette, it’s an interesting look at the film.

The film’s Theatrical Trailer and a Still Gallery are included as well as a Commentary by Sidney Lumet and Paul Newman.

The DVD Lounge’s Ratings for The Verdict
CATEGORY
RATING
(OUT OF 10)
THE MOVIE

10
THE VIDEO

9
THE AUDIO

9
THE EXTRAS

8
REPLAY VALUE

8.5
OVERALL
8
(NOT AN AVERAGE)