Adapted by David Mamet from the novel by Barry Reed, Lumet’s masterful courtroom drama features Paul Newman in one of his greatest performances as Frank Galvin, an alcoholic Boston ambulance-chaser who takes a seemingly open-and-shut medical malpractice case for an easy settlement. But after visiting the bedside of the comatose plaintiff, Galvin undergoes a crisis of conscience and finds himself pushing the case to trial, where he squares off against a high-end defense attorney (James Mason) and a politically connected judge. With Charlotte Rampling as Newman’s alcoholic lover, and a blink-and-you’ll-miss-him Bruce Willis as a courtroom extra. Nominated for five Academy Awards: Best Picture, Director, Actor (Newman), Supporting Actor (Mason) and Adapted Screenplay.
“Frank Galvin provides Newman with the occasion for one of his great performances. This is the first movie in which Newman has looked a little old, a little tired. There are moments when his face sags and his eyes seem terribly weary, and we can look ahead clearly to the old men he will be playing in 10 years’ time. Newman always has been an interesting actor, but sometimes his resiliency, his youthful vitality, have obscured his performances; he has a tendency to always look great, and that is not always what the role calls for. This time, he gives us old, bone-tired, hung-over, trembling (and heroic) Frank Galvin, and we buy it lock, stock and shot glass.”
—Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times