starring Paul Newman, Charlotte Rampling, Jack Warden, James Mason
screenplay by David Mamet, based on the novel by Barry Reed
directed by Sidney Lumet
by Jefferson Robbins It's never clear if disgraced lawyer Frank Galvin (Paul Newman) is a practicing Catholic, as are so many of the souls around him in a grey, hopeless Boston--but there's a crucifix on his office wall, and he sure has the posture down. Note how many times in Sidney Lumet's legal drama Newman is caught posed in the final stage of genuflection, Roman brow in profile, knuckle touched to lips. He's skipped making the sign of the cross and gone straight to kissing a nonexistent rosary. His is a corroded soul, though in David Mamet's screenplay construction, at least he knows it's corroded. Chasing any lawsuit that will end in a payday, Galvin lies right to the faces of dozens of people. In this, he's no better than his opponents in court, save that they lie through the proxy instruments of forgery and coached testimony, keeping their hands clean. They sail through the system frictionlessly, while Galvin feels himself dying a little each time--unless it's in the service of something greater. In his wanderings, windowpanes and desk fans cast the impression of a cross over him.