Reviewed by: Brett Willis
|Featuring:||Paul Newman, Charlotte Rampling, Jack Warden, James Mason|
|Producer:||David Brown, Richard D. Zanuck|
|Distributor:||20th Century Fox|
This story, of an outgunned lawyer seeking redemption for himself and justice for his client by taking on a giant bad-guy entity in court, is a forerunner of later films such as “The Rainmaker,” “A Civil Action” and “Erin Brockovich.” It shows the fine touch of director Sidney Lumet (“12 Angry Men” (1957), “Running On Empty,” “A Stranger Among Us”) and was nominated for several Oscars.
Frank Gavin (Paul Newman), an alcoholic lawyer who’s been reduced to ambulance chasing, lands a case involving possible medical malpractice during childbirth. At some point (apparently while photographing the institutionalized, comatose woman), he crosses over from being in the case only for the money to getting emotionally involved. He has to do a lot of digging to get to the truth (if he didn’t, what fun would the story be?).
Content Warnings: There’s quite a bit of profanity. Gavin’s associate Mickey Morrissey (Jack Warden) has an especially filthy mouth, triggering the R rating. it’s implied that Gavin sleeps with a woman he picks up in a bar (after turning his ex-wife’s photo so she can’t “see” them). The stakes are high, and the defendants and their chief lawyer (James Mason) play real hardball with the case (I’ll leave it at that, lest I give the storyline away).
Watch for young Bruce Willis as an “extra” in the courtroom.
Although there are inaccuracies in the legal procedures, this is a good example of the David vs. Goliath plot. Not based on a particular true story, but worthwhile as mature entertainment.