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The Verdict: Collector's Edition

Paul Newman stars in this slow, somber 1982 courtroom picture as boozing, has-been lawyer Frank Galvin, who's chasing hearses at the dismal wane of his legal career. A friend (Jack Warden) hands him an easy case — a malpractice suit against a hospital run by the archdiocese of Boston — that's ripe for a generous settlement. But instead of going for the substantial hush-money, the burnt-out Galvin opts for principle, hoping that winning the case and righting the wrong — against a high-priced law firm with a mighty reputation — will turn around his career and his sagging self-esteem. If The Verdict sounds suspiciously close to the "underdog" formula of The Bad News Bears, it is, with one major exception: Frank hopelessly butchers the case through inexperience and mismanagement, making the ending something of a surprise, and a fairly unconvincing one at that. Such loose and poor plotting is unforgivable given the talent involved: seasoned director Sidney Lumet (Dog Day Afternoon, Serpico, Network) and an early screen adaptation by Chicago playwright David Mamet (Mamet's unique voice is largely absent, save for one moment when it incongrously jumps out: "Who were these men…? Who were these men…?"). Newman is fine as Galvin, but his character is too dull, failing to wrestle with demons and leaving only the barely interesting court case to carry the dramatic weight of the film. Both Warden and James Mason, as an arch defense attorney, add some color to the cast, but Charlotte Rampling is wooden with a useless character that never does anything worth filming. Fox's second DVD release of The Verdict arrives as a two-disc "Collector's Edition" with an improved anamorphic transfer (1.85:1) from a source-print that's largely free of collateral wear while audio options remain Dolby 2.0 Surround and mono. Disc One includes a decent commentary by Sidney Lumet, with a little input from Paul Newman, while Disc Two includes the featurettes "The Making of The Verdict" (9 min.), "Paul Newman: The Craft of Acting" (8 min.), "Sidney Lumet: The Craft of Directing" (10 min.), "Milestones in Cinema History: The Verdict" (23 min.), "Hollywood Backstories: The Verdict" (22 min.), a stills gallery, the theatrical trailer, and a collection of trailers for other Paul Newman films. Dual-DVD slimline keep-case.
—Gregory P. Dorr

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