Plot: What’s it about?
The eighties seemed like a comeback decade for Paul Newman. Nominated several times throughout all three decades before him, Newman had seen himself at the beginning part of this decade on a hot streak. It all began with a plum role in the film Absence of Malice that got him much notice and his Oscar nomination in the Best Actor category. It was not until two years later that he would get a role that was previously turned down by a few, most notably his perennial co-star Robert Redford. It tells the tale of a long suffering attorney against the odds and against the wall of Boston law in a medical malpractice suit. Through it all, it’s not whether he wins or loses, it’s all summed up when the jury reads The Verdict.
Frank Galvin (Paul Newman) has an interesting daily routine. He goes to the bar, he plays pinball, and he drinks. If only his high score on pinball can be reflective of his record in practicing law, he’d be very rich and very good. The truth is he’s desperate, he’s an alcoholic and he’s reduced himself to paying off funeral homes to offer his services to grieving families. One day, his sole associate (Jack Warden) has been doing all the legwork on a case that can settle promisingly for Frank, but his determination to right the wrongs he has done in the past with taking this case comes with many obstacles from the other side led by lawyer Ed Concannon (James Mason).
If it’s one thing about a script by David Mamet, the thing is the words flow and the film is paced brilliantly when you have the right actors to say that dialogue correctly and who better to say the words than veteran actors like Paul Newman and James Mason. Newman portrays Galvin as a poor man, a man on his last legs who will do anything for a client and when the right one shows, none of his past errors are evident and even a mention of the past brings his spirit up even when it’s down for a moment. Mason plays Concannon as a man determined to not do his best but to win regardless of what strings he has to pull on the inside and on the outside of the case. Together, they are worthy adversaries and they play them well.
This wouldn’t be a top notch cast combined without a top-notch director and who better to start off the eighties in stride but Sidney Lumet. His direction recalls a common theme of a lot of his movies portraying the one individual who goes against the establishment and pays a price for that fight against it. At the Oscars, it had stiff competition with the likes of ET, Tootsie and losing out to Gandhi. Despite it’s overlooked status, The Verdict remains a compelling film filled with a twist or two and shows just how dialogue can really move a story along especially in the proper combinitive hands of David Mamet and Sidney Lumet.
Video: How does it look?
The Verdict is given the widescreen treatment in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio and from the looks of it, it’s a good transfer but not a great one. There are specks of grain in common places and many scenes are sharp but the colors are a bit muddy and the look is more from a film of the seventies then from a film of the eighties. This was a common thing among many films at the early part of this decade. There were little blotches and apparant that this was not the best they could’ve done on this title. However, the images are clear and precisely sharp for a movie of the eighties which is to say it’s not up to the clarity of today’s films. Despite the source limitations, the final verdict is an good print.
Audio: How does it sound?
As for the sound of the Verdict, it’s not the greatest example of the clarity of anyone’s sound in a home entertainment system being that the majority of the track is filled with bits of score and dialogue.
The end result is better than the visual transfer of the film, but the Dolby Surround 2.0 gives more around the front channels but next to nothing on the rear channels. The dialogue is sharp and clear and the score is a bit muted but passable. The final verdict is a track that’s better than the print but still has room for improvement. The film also has an English Digital Mono and French Digital Mono track as well as English and Spanish subtitles.
Supplements: What are the extras?
The Verdict on first look appears to have hardly any, but alas, there is a decent amount. First off, there is an audio commentary by Sidney Lumet and Paul Newman.
*There are seven types of commentaries: the commentary that describes what’s on screen, the commentary that tells stories of the making of the film and the filmmakers or participants inspirations, the commentary that’s self congratulatory, the commentary that is composed of interviews combined together and the essay kind of commentary that tells one point of view or many points of view, the commentary that doesn’t make comments all the time and have comfortable gaps and the commentary that has frustrating gaps in between comments.*
The majority of the commentary is dominated by Lumet. Newman is only on for close to two minutes in the last quarter of the movie and he says very little but is a glorified cameo on a commentary track. As for Lumet, he is informative and he doesn’t speak all the time. However, the gaps in the track allow the viewer to stay involved in the movie and have the comments as a companion piece of the backstory in the view of this film. This has been very well done in titles such as like The Paper Chase and All That Jazz and it makes for a great combination of a very good film along with a wonderful commentary by Lumet.
There’s also an eight minute featurette made at the time behind the scenes of the film along with fluff interviews from most of the players of the film. It’s a curious piece, but one wonders why there was no inclusion of AMC’s Backstory which gives a more in-depth and better look into the making of this film along with some present day interviews with most of the players involved with this film.
Finally, there’s a small Behind The Scenes photo gallery and a theatrical trailer along with trailers of other Newman/Fox titles including Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Hombre, and The Hustler
The final verdict is a very good movie, and a good disc that carries a few satisfactory extras.