18 January 2007

91. the verdict

this one had to be good, right? sidney lumet, paul newman and david mamet? are you kidding me?
this had to be good and it was. it was made in 1982 but it could have been made 40 years earlier because it is old-fashioned in the best sense of the word: the writing is crisp and clean, setting up a character and a setting vividly and efficiently: in the first five minutes we know frank and we know what is at stake. and mamet gets a lot of accolades due to his idiosyncratic dialogue, but the reason he's remained more than just a curiosity is the fact that he knows how to drive drama. he understands that good drama is sometimes nothing more than a power struggle -- character who want conflicting things, and do their damnedest to get them. and often what they want is something as simple as a bunch of money.
so he has that, he uses that, he makes that plain. and then he adds layers to it -- his aforementioned dialogue, which create great moments for all the main actors: "he's the prince of fucking darkness"; "she threw up in her mask. now cut the bullshit, please. just say it: she threw up in her mask"; "you're mister independent. be independent now."; "i believe there is justice in our hearts." and also adds to it with all the ins-and-outs of how law in our world really works: we see the backroom deals, the powerful lawyers who can make a witness disappear, how the jaded judge affects a trial; we learn all these details about the law without being talked down to. and finally, the most important layer of the story is alcoholism. it minds me of raymond carver's quote about being a drunk: "it takes a lot of time and effort to do it right." we see newman being drunk, why he is drunk, and we get a little bit -- just a little -- redemption at the end.
the question that remains during that last shot is this: will frank drink away all his earnings?


Blogger ayatollah assahola said...

nothing beats when he decks rampling.

10:23 AM  

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