Movie Review by Debbie Winkler
Starring: Paul Newman, Charlotte Rampling, Jack Warden, James Mason, Milo O’Shea
Director: Sidney Lumet
Release Date: 8 December 1982
Length: 129 minutes
Movie Rating: R
View Format: TV
My Rating: 4/5 stars
“A washed-up, ambulance-chasing attorney (Paul Newman) gets a chance at redemption when his friend (Jack Warden) tosses him an open-and-shut medical malpractice case. But instead of accepting an easy cash settlement, he takes the powerful defendant to court. James Mason plays the opposing counsel, whom his legal adversary calls “The Prince of Darkness,” in this courtroom drama from director Sidney Lumet.” — Netflix.com
This was a very powerful courtroom drama centered around Paul Newman’s character. Firstly, I must say that I thought that Paul Newman was incredible in this film. He is able to take an unlikeable character and turn him into someone you are rooting for and feel for. When the movie begins, Paul Newman plays an ambulance-chasing attorney who literally gets most of his business from funeral parlors. He had such a promising career before – he was 2nd in his class at a prestigious law firm, editor of the law review and worked for a big, powerful firm. Then his house of cards crumbled. One of his coworkers bribed a juror on a case that Newman was trying and blamed it on him. Newman lost everything – his wife, his career, his respect and his reputation. So when one of the only friends he has left throws him a charity case, Newman takes it and starts looking for the easy payoff. But that old lawyer that he used to be – the one filled with integrity and grit – is still buried in there somewhere and this case brings him back out. Newman passes on the offer to settle out of court and decides to go to trial.
Of course, once the decision is made, the wheels of the legal machine start churning. A high-powered legal team prepares their of their 2 doctor clients who are accused of malpractice and causing the destruction of a young woman’s life. A powerful judge makes it clear that, in his mind, the defense has already won and goes out of his way to make things difficult for the prosecution, led by Newman in the courtroom. The victim’s family are furious that their lawyer passed up the chance to get $210,000 of easy money and don’t make the case any easier. All Newman has to try the case is his friend and a random woman he met in a bar one night.
This is a real underdog story and, while it does not sound very exciting, I was on the edge of my seat several times to see what was going to happen! There are quite a few twists and turns in the case as it is unveiled in the courtroom and the movie does not exactly show you the best side of our legal system. I am not sure how much of this could actually happen, but I can say that it really makes you wonder if money is what wins a case and not guilt or innocence. If you enjoy superbly acted dramas, I think that you would really enjoy this one. It was nominated for several awards, but did not win any, which is surprising as it is really that good. The ending is truly a surprise, in more ways than one. A great movie to catch on TV or to rent on DVD.
The main character in this movie is an alcoholic so he is shown in a lot of bars and he drinks a lot throughout the film. There is some violence and some strong language in this movie. It would be appropriate for children ages 10 and older to watch on TV as it is edited a bit, but I am not sure how much they will understand of the plot or how interested they would be in watching it as there is very little action that takes place. Recommended for ages 18 and up on DVD.