There are many fine performances and sensitive moral issues contained in The Verdict but somehow that isn’t enough to make it the compelling film it should be. David Mamet’s script [from a novel by Barry Reed] offers little out of the ordinary.
Paul Newman is a cloudy-headed boozer who was at one time clearly a top junior lawyer but has been reduced to soliciting clients at funerals. Colleague Jack Warden hands him the case that could put him back on the straight and narrow.
A young woman lies in a respected Boston hospital – a vegetable thanks to a dose of anesthesia she received from doctors while delivering a baby. Her sister wants to sue the hospital and Catholic Church (which owns the facility) for a sum of money large enough to enable her to start a new life.
Newman becomes convinced the church and hospital have conspired to cover up medical malpractice.
While Newman’s drunk is a little difficult to take at the outset, he manages to weave an extraordinarily realistic portrayal by the film’s completion. He gets especially solid support from Warden and James Mason.
1982: Nominations: Best Picture, Director, Actor (Paul Newman), Supp. Actor (James Mason), Screenplay Adaptation