Film: The Verdict

"Your Honor, if you're going to insist on presenting my case for me, I respectfully request that you don't try to lose it."
Frank Galvin (Paul Newman) to Judge Hoyle (Milo O'Shea).

The Verdict is a 1982 courtroom drama film directed by Sidney Lumet and written by David Mamet, based on a novel by Barry Reed and starring Paul Newman.

Frank Galvin is a washed-up alcoholic attorney who hasn't won a case in years and who spends his time lying his ways into funerals. His friend, Mickey Morrissey, gets him a medical malpractice suit about a woman rendered comatose during surgery with a guaranteed large settlement.

However, a visit to the girl deeply affects him, and at the meeting with Archdiocese of Boston to hammer out the settlement, he rejects the money, deciding that this is his last chance to save himself and resolves to fight it out. This, of course, displeases everyone, from the family to the judge. His opponent in the trial is Ed Concannon, backed by a large and professional legal team.

To make matters worse, no one seems to be able to tell him what actually happened during the surgery. Also along the way he finds a lover in a woman named Laura, a complex relationship that isn't made any easier by the trial.

The film was nominated for five Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Director, and Best Screenplay, though in the end it lost in all categories.

Both Tobin Bell (later of the Saw franchise) and Bruce Willis can be seen as courtroom spectators in the climactic court scenes.

This Film contains examples of:

  • The Alcoholic: Galvin. In one early scene his hands shake so badly that he can't pick up his drink, so he leans down to sip from the cup like a dog. The last scene hints that he's quit drinking—he is seen with a cup of coffee.
  • Ambulance Chaser: What Galvin is at the start. He rejects the settlement party to get out of this.
  • Amoral Attorney: Both Galvin and Concannon have a bit of this, with Galvin not above lying and breaking into mailboxes, and with Concannon resorting to having Laura spy on Galvin, though on the other hand he's quite disgusted when he finds out Dr. Towler really is guilty.
    • Judge Hoyle seemingly makes an active effort to destroy Galvin's case, and is heavily biased in favor of Concannon. Galvin calls him out on it only to be threatened with arrest and contempt of court.
  • Anti-Hero: Frank Galvin is a pretty scummy attorney, and even after he rediscovers his thirst for justice he's not above using tactics of questionable morality, like breaking into mailboxes to track down people who don't want to be found.
  • David Versus Goliath: One attorney representing a small family versus a large high payed legal team payed for by the Catholic Church.
  • Disregard That Statement: One witness's entire testimony is thrown out, and the judge strenuously urges the jury to forget they ever heard it. In the end, however, it's pretty clear that the jury makes their decision based entirely on said witness's testimony.
  • The Dreaded: Concannon is a fearsome attorney, also known as "The Prince of Darkness."
  • He's Back: Galvin was a brilliant attorney prior to the evens of the film. He begins the story at rock bottom, but he returns to his former shape.
  • Hollywood Law:
    • The defense should have been able to win at the close of Galvin's case by making a motion for "judgment as a matter of law" (i.e. the judge ruling in their favor as no rational jury could find against them). However that doesn't happen, and then Galvin puts on his surprise witness Nurse Kaitlin Price, who shows Dr. Towler was indeed negligent. Judge Hoyle then incorrectly rules that her testimony is inadmissible hearsay, though it fulls under the "admissions" exception. Topping it off, the "best evidence" rule (that when witnesses testify to the content of a document, it must be produced) gets utterly bungled, as the document (a photocopy that Price brings in showing that she altered an admissions form at Towler's order to cover up his negligence) is right there in her hand. Obviously it can easily be produced.
    • Judge Hoyle, who was obviously in the defense's pocket, could have issued a judgment notwithstanding verdict nullifying the jury's decision, if only Concannon had asked for it.
    • And of course Galvin could have appealed and gotten a new trial based on the defense's misconduct in placing a mole in his office.
  • The Judge: Judge Hoyle, who wears his dislike for Galvin on his sleeve.
  • Jury and Witness Tampering: Galvin took the fall for this in the backstory, when the prestigious law firm he belonged to was playing shenanigans. He avoided criminal prosecution but it was the decisive turning point in his life, as he lost his position with a prestigious law firm and divorced his wife.
  • Last Disrespects: At the beginning, Frank gets most of his cases by trolling strangers' funerals with his business card. He gets away with it once, but the second time, the dead man's son calls him out and has him removed.
  • Magical Negro: Averted with Dr. Thompson. His slightly bumbling demeanor is not Obfuscating Stupidity. Despite his serene "there's nothing they can do to me" attitude, he really is just a plain old country doctor.
  • Mamet Speak: Interestingly enough, Mamet limits his indulgences into this for the most part to a few scenes early on.
  • The Mole: Laura, sent by Concannon to spy on Galvin.
  • The Oner: A nearly four-minute scene without a cut or camera movement in which Galvin, panicked after his expert Dr. Gruber disappears, first calls Concannon's firm to try and get that settlement, and then starts desperately calling around for experts.
  • Quit Your Whining: Laura angrily shames Frank when he's panicking about the trial and regretting not taking a deal the hospital made his client.
  • Redemption Quest: Galvin, rediscovering his idealism after letting his life go to hell.
  • Scenery Porn: For admirers of grand old buildings. Filmed on location in Boston.
  • Surprise Witness: Kaitlin Price, the surprise witness called by Galvin who reveals that Dr. Towler didn't look at the admittance form and then had her falsify it after everything went wrong.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: The Doneghys confront Galvin when he goes to court without consulting them.
  • Would Hit a Girl: Galvin, when he finds out Laura is The Mole.