The Verdict (1982)


Link: The Verdict

Summary: After losing a bunch of cases and on the verge of calling it quits, an tired alcoholic lawyer accepts one more case, a simple malpractice case that seems easy enough to settle out of court for some good money.  But when he comes to empathize with the case’s victim, he refuses to settle out of court, seeking true justice rather than easy money.  With the deep pockets and legal resources of his opponents, this won’t be an easy case to win.

Thoughts: Court case movies always seem to be difficult things to dramatize because you have to get the pacing right.  Unfortunately I think this film put too much backstory into the setup so that the court scenes themselves were rather dull.  (For good examples of dramatic balance between in-court and out-of-court scenes, I suggest A Few Good Men or My Cousin Vinny.)

Interestingly, according to the blu-ray’s bonus features, screenwriter David Mamet’s originally screenplay didn’t include the verdict.  While the producer interviewed on the bonus feature (the late Richard Zanuck) thought this was horrible, I think it might’ve been interesting.  A bit like the ending of Inception.  It might’ve worked because the final answer isn’t really important (especially when we know what it should be in the dramatic sense).  What matters is what’s important to the main character.  Win or lose, the character did the right thing here, and fought as hard as he could.  The verdict doesn’t matter.

Anyway, it was an OK movie, but I don’t think the tension was ever pushed as high as it could’ve been due to the pacing.  It was interesting to see such an anti-hero in such a role, an almost sleazy alcoholic who’s using this court case as a sort of . . . what’s the word? . . . redemption?  I also enjoyed the unconventional twists of the relationship B-story (that is, the sub-story that supports the main story; usually a friendship or a man-woman relationship).

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