THE FRIENDS OF EDDIE COYLE, 1973
Cast: Paul Newman, Charlotte Rampling, Jack Warden, James Mason
Frank Galvin is a down-on-his luck lawyer, reduced to drinking and ambulance chasing. Former associate Mickey Morrissey reminds him of his obligations in a medical malpractice suit that he himself served to Galvin on a silver platter: all parties willing to settle out of court. Blundering his way through the preliminaries, he suddenly realizes that perhaps after all the case should go to court: to punish the guilty, to get a decent settlement for his clients, and to restore his standing as a lawyer.
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AMC has this slogan that says ďstory matters here,Ē and theyíre right which is probably the reason they show The Verdict every once in a while. Paul Newman stars in this exceptional drama about an alcoholic lawyer who is given an opportunity to salvage his once prominent career with a malpractice case to trial rather than settling. Newman has never been more captivating in his performance than here.
Over his long career, Newmanís roles have not only challenged him, but allowed to grow and develop as an actor enriching his craft by playing compelling and distinct characters. Newman started during the 50ís when the young generation was looking for new heroes to admire, so they turned to actors such as James Dean, Marlon Brando, and even Paul Newman. All these actors played anti heroes who were complete opposites from the protagonist common during the 40ís.
But here several decades later, Newman is playing a far more mature character not trying to rebel against the establishment but rather trying to uphold it by winning a case in which a family was wronged. Sydney Lumet and Paul Newman are quite a remarkable team both enhancing the other talent.
The plot deals with two surgeons' near-fatal act of criminal negligence that turns a female patient into a basket case. Rather than inform on them, the woman flees Boston and the hospital, which is owned by the Catholic Church. She's pursued by a fiftyish alcoholic attorney who wants to use the negligent case getting the wrong anesthetic to redeem himself.
Both Lumet and Newman should have won an Oscar, but they didnít. Letís hope they lost to someone or a film more deserving because these bring a truly engaging story with emotionally powerfully punches that go straight for the gut.
Sidney Lumet's accomplished courtroom drama is based on a screenplay by writer David Mamet from Barry Reed's novel. Most impressive in Lumet's use of silence that adds poignancy to not only the dialogue but the performances and the purpose of the scenes. Itís really an innovative technique that creates an absorbingly profound atmosphere and depth to the film.
This was Newmanís seventh Oscar nomination and it was a well deserved nomination. This is an actor who has grown with the times however in many ways his character here is similar to the roles from the 50ís in which he plays a character driven by his own convictions and not anyone elseís. The Verdict is a great piece of film that will have a place in cinema history.