There is a moment in "The Verdict" when Paul Newman walks into a room and shuts the door and trembles with anxiety and with the inner scream that people should get off his back. No one who has ever been seriously hung over or needed a drink will fail to recognize the moment. It is the key to his character in "The Verdict," a movie about a drinking alcoholic who tries to pull himself together for one last step at salvaging his self-esteem.
Newman plays Frank Galvin, a Boston lawyer who has had his problems over the years - a lost job, a messy divorce, a disbarment hearing, all of them traceable in one way or another to his alcoholism. He has a "drinking problem," as an attorney for the archdiocese delicately phrases it. That means that he makes an occasional guest appearance at his office, and spends the rest of his day playing pinball and drinking beer, and his evening drinking Irish and looking to see if there isn't at least one last lonely woman in the world who will buy his version of himself in preference to the facts.
Galvin's pal, a lawyer named Mickey Morrissey (Jack Warden) has drummed up a little work for him: An open-and-shut malpractice suit against a Catholic hospital in Boston where a young woman was carelessly turned into a vegetable because of a medical oversight. The deal is pretty simple. Galvin can expect to settle out of court and pocket a third of the settlement - enough to drink on for what little future he is likely to enjoy.
But Galvin makes the mistake of going to see the young victim in a hospital, where she is alive but in a coma. And something snaps inside of him. He determines to try this case, by god, and to prove that the doctors who took her mind away from her were guilty of incompetence and dishonesty. In Galvin's mind, bringing this case to court is one and the same thing with regaining his self-respect - with emerging from his own alcoholic coma.