- 2 hr 9 min
Paul Newman plays an ambulance-chasing lawyer named Frank Galvin who finds a chance to redeem his squandered legal career. He has lost four cases in three years. Gritty sets with dark lighting convey the desperation of Galvin’s life, which is mostly spent playing pinball in a bar and adding raw eggs to his beer for breakfast. He takes on a medical malpractice case. His client is suing the Archdiocese of Boston, which is defended by a prestigious law firm with dozens of lawyers. The Archdiocese hospital is accused of putting a patient in a permanent coma by administering the wrong anesthetic. Though he’s afraid of doing the wrong thing, Galvin turns down a settlement, and his client gets upset with him. In the meantime, Galvin agonizes to his new-found girlfriend Laura about the need to do what’s right. James Mason plays the high-priced attorney Concannon that heads the opposition, and it becomes clear that he and the presiding judge are old buddies. Concannon repeatedly makes outrageous motions in court, which the judge honors. Contrasting scenes show Galvin in his Styrofoam-cup strewn office wringing his hands over what to do, while Concannon and a bevy of smug lawyers share tea in wood-paneled rooms and laugh about Galvin’s chances. Galvin’s chances improve when he finds a witness who will testify about what happened the patient in the malpractice case. However, Concannon succeeds in getting the judge to throw out the testimony on a technicality. The suspense builds as Galvin refuses to back down, despite the fact that he has no witnesses on his side, faces an army of opposing lawyers openly mocking him in court, and he has just left a girlfriend who betrayed him. He becomes a lone figure demanding justice from an unjust system that favors the well-to-do and the politically-savvy. Galvin’s loneliness is emphasized by the camera work that swoops down upon him as the verdict is read in court.