Courtroom drama The Verdict is one of those great 1980s movies that has been somewhat forgotten, but it regularly features in the top movie lists of all time, with a career high performance by screen legend Paul Newman as alcoholic Boston attorney Frank Galvin who finds himself as he fights a seemingly unwinnable case.
As producers look to turn celluloid classics then this tale of redemption in a courtroom is a natural fit as Frank takes on an incompetent judge, a shady defence attorney and the might of Boston’s Catholic Church, who are in this case are fighting off a medical malpractice suit in one of their hospitals that left a young mother in a coma.
In David Mamet’s blistering original screenplay, Frank is a self-loathing failure who only sees life through the bottom of a glass taking on this case as his last hurrah. Margaret May Hobbs’ adaptation of Barry Reed’s novel makes him a younger man with a family who might have a future.
Former Emmerdale bad boy Jason Merrells returns to Yorkshire as Frank, and despite his best efforts the impact of his alcoholism is never really that convincing. But a skilled actor like Merrells always brings something, and his intense portrayal of a man on a mission to find some kind of justice is well judged, as is the climatic court scene as Frank pleads his case.
Unlike some of the creaky touring dramas the money is onstage with a quality set, including a full sized courtroom, by Michael Lunney, who also appears as genial barman Eugene who owns the bar where Frank is a regular
It’s a big cast of 17 full of seasoned performers who all manage to do the distinctive Boston accent without going over the top. London’s Burning stalwart Richard Walsh doubles up impressively as conflicted Bishop Brophy and the dodgy judge Sweeney.
The vastly experienced Vincent Pirillo brings real humanity, and not a little humour, as Frank’s mentor Moe, and Nigel Barber is splendidly slimy as Frank’s adversary J. Edgar Concannon who as we discover will do anything to win his case.
There’s plenty of twists in this moving and well-staged tale of a decent man regaining his dignity, and if you love a John Grisham courtroom novel then this is the perfect night out.
The Verdict is at Bradford Alhambra Theatre until Saturday 1st July. To book 01274 432000.
Reviewer: Paul Clarke
Reviewed: 27th June 2023
North West End UK Rating: