Sunday, March 8, 2015

Film Pairings — Exposing The Flaws In Our Legal System And Ourselves

The adversary system we use as the means to determine guilt or innocence may be the best we can do. But much like the rest our democratic process, there is considerable room for improvement. These two courtroom dramas deal with the inherent problems and collateral damage of our deeply flawed justice system.

The Verdict — While this tough, taut film focuses more on one attorney’s personal redemption, it also provides a good look at what money can buy. Paul Newman plays the troubled lawyer caught between conscience and success, between alcoholism and altruism.  The cast is superb. In addition to an incomparable Newman, we are blessed to have Charlotte Rampling, James Mason and Jack Warden. Based on the novel of the same name by Barry Reed, The Verdict was turned into a screenplay by David Mamet and directed by Sidney Lumet.  This 1982 film is highly recommended, especially for its uncanny sense of realism.

… And Justice For AllThe Verdict is single minded, intensely focused, dark and gritty. Justice exists in a thinner atmosphere, but has a broader vision. There are moments of humor.  We almost don’t notice as lives are destroyed by injustice, corruption, ambition and greed. We almost don’t notice, much like real life, as the bodies pile up and souls sour. Al Pacino is the prime character in this ironic drama, about an attorney who can’t quite believe there is nothing he can do to make things right. This 1979 courtroom drama was written by Valerie Curtin and Norman Jewison, who also directed. The supporting cast is superb: Lee Strasberg, Jack Warden, John Forsythe, and Jeffrey Tambor.  Recommended

In addition to the courtroom setting and the similar morality tales, we have two of this country’s finest actors as East Coast (Boston and Baltimore) lawyers in somewhat similar roles in movies only a few years apart. For those who imbibe, whiskey was popular then and perhaps even more popular now.  For many, something like a Pomegranate Spritzer might work.

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