A Civil Action [VHS]
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Product Description

Jonathan Harr's nonfiction bestseller was a shot in the arm for those seeking more than last-minute heroics akin to a John Grisham thriller. Here was a labyrinthine case involving industrial pollution by two highly regarded corporations, contaminated drinking water, and the deaths of innocent children in New England, circa 1981. The case has hundreds of twists and takes our hero--a steady, respectable lawyer named Jan Schlichtmann--and turns his life into personal disaster. Instead of celebrating the law, the story is a maddening and rewarding look at the elusiveness of the courtroom case.

Steven Zaillian, who won an Oscar for adapting Schindler's List and directed Searching for Bobby Fischer, boils Harr's 502-page book into a complete, satisfactory film experience. Book readers will no doubt jeer the streamlining Zaillian had to perform to make the movie flow. Most changes can be quickly defused with the exception of the film's portrait of Schlichtmann. The lawyer has been turned into a movie star, an ultra-slick, cold-hearted gentleman who finds his purpose in working the case. Casting a stalwart John Travolta again diverges from the book, which right from the opening pages showed us a Schlichtmann with feet of clay. As Schlichtmann's partners (including William H. Macy and Tony Shalhoub) descend into the case, the unbridled sense of power and money is abandoned. This case is ultimately about survival.

Zaillian provides an excellent narrative for the sordid facts of personal injury suits, in which money is the only reward for lost or broken lives (deftly introduced in the film's opening scene). Zaillian also stays away from dwelling on the illness of the children involved, focusing on the gaunt faces of the parents who survive (Kathleen Quinlan, James Gandolfini) in controlled anguish. His evil characters--an industrial plant's owner (Dan Hedaya) and a corporate lawyer (another fine acting spin by director Sydney Pollack)--are so human it's terrifying. Zaillian's final ace in the hole is Oscar-nominee Robert Duvall. Perfectly cast as Travolta's opposition, Jerome Facher, Duvall steals scenes with the abbreviated dialogue; he turns a fancy settlement meeting into a farce with one line. Facher is not a callous, love-to-hate-him lawyer like James Mason in The Verdict. Facher represents the law at its brilliant foundation: to best represent one's client. With a taped-together briefcase and dry humor, Facher, not Schlichtmann, is the character who captures us by the film's end. --Doug Thomas

Jan Schlichtmann is a cynical, high-priced personal injury attorney who only takes big-money cases he can safely settle out of court. Though his latest case at first appears straightforward, Schlichtmann soon becomes entangled in an epic legal battle ... one where he's willing to put his career, reputation, and all that he owns on the line for the rights of his clients! Also featuring Robert Duvall, William H. Macy, and John Lithgow -- this gripping, widely acclaimed hit delivers edge-of-your-seat entertainment!

Customer Reviews:

  • Riveting and Powerful Cinema - An Eye-Opener for All
    This is the most incredible movie ever made about trying a wrongful death case and the accompanying emotional roller coaster the process generates for attorneys. The opening scene will plant you firmly in your chair as Jan Schlichtmann (played by John Travolta) explains the financial calculus behind accepting and declining potential clients with personal injury claims. Jerome Facher (played by Robert Duvall) is infuriating with his unending legal maneuverings designed to extract his corporate client from an untenable legal position permeated with liability. The traitorous conduct of Schlichtmann's partners will make you wretch with disgust as they scramble to save themselves at the expense of righting a terrible wrong evidenced by a dozen dead children. Engrossing, to say the least.

    Yes, the movie isn't perfect. Travolta's portrayal of Jan Schlichtmann doesn't completely mesh with the character in the book, there isn't a practicing attorney alive who doesn't know Rule 11 (court-imposed sanctions for unethical conduct), and the legal proceedings aren't quite right. Who cares? If the director had included the day-to-day minutiae involved in getting a case to trial, the film would have been three years long! My fellow reviewers are unreasonable in their unrelenting critiques.

    If you're involved in the legal profession, this film will make you step back and reassess your brand of client representation. Are you taking the right cases? Are you serving the needs of you clients - or yourself? Are you willing to give your all to the law? Interesting, and always stimulating, food for thought.

    If you're a lay person, hold on - you're in for the ride of your life....more info

  • A tort lawyer finds new meaning in life and goes down the path of righteous litigation; An underdog against the large corp
    (1) A Civil Action is a 1998 film, starring John Travolta (as plaintiff's attorney Jan Schlichtmann) and Robert Duvall, based on the book of the same name by Jonathan Harr. Both the book and the film are based on the real-life case of Anderson v. Cryovac that took place in Woburn, Massachusetts in the 1980s.

    (2) John Travolta plays a tort lawyer part of tort law firm making millions from large corporations by filing personal injuries on behalf of their clients.

    (3) He is intellectually attracted (seeing the the financial jackpot and oppurtunity to make millions for his firm and partners) to a case about a large corporation polluting the waters of a small town which incidentally shows a high rise of deaths due to cancer.

    (4) Travolta law firm tries to proove that the deaths due the cancer of the many residents of that down were actually due to the consumption of the water from the river where the toxic waste from the company were dumped.

    (5) In a surprising move , and totally against his nature he decides against taking a reasonably sizable sum of money as settlement (from the corporation) on behalf of the town dwellers to end the case there which would have left Travolta and his partners with sizable monies and would have also left his clients some money. But the clients are not after money, they are after truth and want justice to be served against the large corporation.

    (6) The culprit in question are actually 2 companies of which Robert Duvall is the attorney for one of the companies.

    (6) Having turned down the offer and having decided to go on the righteous route of litigations for justice and truth, he sinks his whole law firm into bankruptcy fighting the case; His partners leave him (one of whom is William H Macy)

    (7) ' An underdog against the large corporation' film

    I won't call it the best legal thriller of our times like the DVD jacket proclaims, but it is certainly an above par legal thriller churned out of Hollywood. Travolta surprisingly suits the role very well.

    regards, Vikram...more info
  • A Poor Drama
    Here is a film that slowly and solidly builds to a rather unsatisfying climax and essentially leaves its audience hanging out to dry. The film's denouement is ineptly filmed and edited and leaves the viewer empty with an unemotional response or better yet no response. This is a perfect example of post-romantic Hollywood filmmaking where visuals are not on the screen but are left to the mind's eye....more info
    A taut probing look at lawyers, the law, judges, corporate giants vs the people, its victims. This film depicts sharp crafty hot-shot lawyers interested only in pursuing personal injury suits guaranteed to win huge settlements- finally immersing themselves in a case that may be beyond their ability to win, crushing their confidence and dismantling their ranks and their finances. The case is worthy, the victims deserving of justice, and the battle collossal. John Travolta as the top obsessed lawyer is excellent, and Robert Duvall as a wise, old opponent is superb. A magnificient cast rounds out this drama concerning the illness of adults, deaths of innocent children, and animals because of contaminated drinking water and industrial pollution. Unfolding the massive cover-up and getting this case into the courtroom to be heard is almost impossible, but our hero plods on. Gripping, intense, yet uplifting and redeeming in its concept of the often frustrating saga of " trying to do the right thing." I liked the film. Yes it deviated from the book, but films often take a creative twist. It begins on a "Jerry Maguire-SHOW ME THE MONEY!!!!!!" tone, but expands into "A Philadelphia Story" of sorts....more info
  • Perfect Man For The Job
    Based on Jonathon Harr's best-selling book, A Civil Action is about a large company knowingly contaminating drinking water. After the citizens of the town convince John Travolta a big-time undefeated attorney to represent them several more victims of irrational numbers of lekukimia die Travolta risks it all to put and end to the contaminating....more info
  • A Civil Action
    Produced by Robert Redford and based on the best-selling book by Jonathan Harr, this gripping, literate enviro-action legal drama is the classic David and Goliath story--the little people versus big industry--told with gusto in a decidedly unpredictable fashion. "Action" features a stellar cast, notably John Lithgow as the trial judge, and Robert Duvall as Jerome Facher, the formidable opposing counsel. Also great is William H. Macy, playing Jan's anxious accountant. It may sound dry as paper, but this absorbing courtroom drama grabs you by the throat and never lets go....more info
  • terrible terrible movie
    this takes years off of your lif...more info
  • Good for whole family
    My family is very cautious about what we watch, and this is the perfect family movie. It is suspensful and entertaining, very heartfelt. Great acting....more info
  • Brilliant absorbing and yet unsatisfying
    John Travolta is Jan Schlichtman, who heads a small but hugely profitable New England law firm powered by a small circle of legal sharks. His team includes Tony Shalhoub and Bill Macy and an endless reservoir of legal agression. Their can-do attitude has rewarded the firm's partners handsomely, and Travolta's charachter expands his tastes fit what they can buy. (He can afford both a Porsche and a seemingly endless stream of speeding tickets). Unknowingly at first, the firm takes as a client the emotionally bereft inhabitants of a rural town suffering a cluster of cancers and leukemia. After a single visit, Jan Schlictman discovers a possible link between the disease, possibly contaminated water and a nearby tannery that provides products for "Beatrice" a multinational consortium that makes....everything. Plunging into the case with the idea of securing a monster settlement from the huge consportium, Schlichtman confronts an overpowering sadness unlike anything he's ever encountered, and one he allows to get the better of him. Soon, hoped-for settlement proposals are turned down, ideals substitute for dollar signs, and the firm racks up horrific bills in its bid to link the Beatrice tannery to the rash of lukemia and death surrounding a small town - there must be a fight.

    Unfortunately - that's where it bogs down, the fight never comes. Instead, we get to see Travolta become unhinged as his sage (but not quite saintly)legal nemesis (Robert Duval) frames a comment on legal dedication, with Schlichtman as the obvious example. Schlicthman's life had by then devolved into a process for making money and finding things to spend it on. With the profit motive gone, his mind follows. In amove that Schlichtman rails against (but which we never explore fully enough for it to register) the Judge allows the jury to sever Beatrice from the trail, and Schlichtman's duel with Duvall's charachter never reaches the Hollywood stage of "You Can't Handle The Truth!" In the end, Schlictman's fortunes are destroyed, his career and his firm in ruins, and the hard-bargained-for settlement only leaves his clients embittered. No amount of settlement can remotely substitute for what the town's residents have lost, and nothing can mitigate the failure that Schlictman's efforts have produced. In a voice-over, played out as documents and transcripts from the trial are dusted off and trucked out into the light of day (down the beltway where we're supposed to think that they'll be reviewed anew) Schlichtman both confesses failure yet exhorts us to follow his example. Failure, he seems to say, is hardly a reason to shy from the epic effort of battling evil in its many banal forms. Still, while the tragic ends of the film swerve away from Hollywood's "the little guy wins" mentality, it doesn't really leave anything in its wake. By the end of the film, Schlichtman has matured beyond measuring himself by his material profits, but nothing quite fills the gap left by the legal shark who got things rolling at the film's opening....more info

  • Well done
    If you are going to make a talky movie, this is the way to do it. The acting is great and the film is, at times, surprisingly powerful. It also avoids having a happy ending but the ending is not exactly unhappy either. This is a mistake that most films make: the endings are too happy. A Civil Action knows this and does not get in line with all the others....more info
  • Travolta is a good actor
    A Civil Action:

    Water. It's a basic fact we need it to survive. The human body can go longer without food than it can water. But what do you do when the water you need to survive may be killing your children? A small town in the North Eastern part of the United States faced this very problem in the 1970s.

    John Travolta plays Lawyer Jan Schlictmann in this movie based off a true story. Jan is the hottest young lawyer in Boston. He is a personal claims lawyer (some would call him an ambulance chaser of the highest degree) with a thriving small practice. He is one of the 10 most eligible bachelors in Boston. Jan will do anything to win a case. He has his own personal equation as to which person will bring in the most money from a trial and thus fill his pockets the deepest. The client he desperately wants to avoid is a dead child as they are worth the least in a jury verdict.

    Everything is going well for Jan and then a case with at least 10 dead children drops into his lap. This case is known as an "orphan" as it has landed in every prominent lawyer's office and all have passed on it prior to him. Jan meets with the families to give them a personal "No thank you." While there he finds of their suspicions as to chemicals that have been dumped into the ground and poisoned the water supply. What interests Jan the most is the parent companies behind the dumping. Suddenly a no interest case becomes one which could net him millions.

    The rest of the movie deals with Jan's obsessive involvement with this case. How it raises him to an almost unheard of prominence and dumps him into the lowest levels he has ever been.

    John Travolta does a good job in this role. He can play the ultimate of arrogance and also the most wounded of individuals as he grows to learn more about what life is truly about. William H. Macy is Jan's financial affairs person who is desperately trying to keep the firm afloat as Jan's obsession causes them to spend more and more. John Lithgow is fine as the Judge. Robert Duvall is great as the opposing lawyer who gives Jan a lesson in legal theatrics.

    The movie is well done but a little slow at times. Definitely would recommend it as the performances by all move this one....more info

  • A good movie, with great performances and interesting story
    A Civil action is a solid movie with some good performances and a story that does not cave into Hollywood's propensity for clich¨¦s.

    I was not expecting a whole lot from this movie, so I was pleasantly surprised. It offers an intriguing story based on real events surrounding the contamination of the water supply in the small, industrial Boston suburb. However, it seems to be at least as much if not more so about the legal process than about the suit itself. Travolta, who plays the prosecuting attorney, Jan Schlichtmann, before the trial was a successful was a not very respected personal injury lawyer (A.K.A. ambulance chaser). During the progression of the story, he narrates advice to the audience as if a he is a law professor. It is this instruction that he himself does not follow and thus leads to trouble for himself and his clients. The movie, in this way, is almost as much about the seemingly illogical logic behind litigation then it is about the individual case it portrays.

    Travolta does an excellent job as the attorney who feels he constantly has something to prove to the corporate monstrosities of Beatrice and Grace and their Harvard-educated attorneys (Schlichtmann, it turns out, graduated from lowly Northwestern). Robert Duvall plays Jerome Facher, Beatrice's lawyer, as an old wise man who has seen everything and is impossible to ruffle. All he wants is to be left alone to eat his lunch in peace and he is content. William H. Macy plays Schlichtmann's firm's increasingly depressed accountant who is forced to leverage the partner's mortgages and take pile charges onto 20 credit cards in the seemingly hopeless effort to wait out the juggernauts their firm is up against.

    The DVD is itself very mediocre. It has a 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtrack, but because this isn't an action film, but more of a human/courtroom drama, there's really not a whole lot here to take advantage of 5.1 channels. The only "special feature" of this DVD is the so-called "Production Featurette" which must be all of 5 minutes long and amounts to more of a glorified trailer than anything else - basically it's just a rehash of scenes from the movie with a couple of really quick takes from Travolta and Macy about the movie. I hope that Touchstone will improve a bit on these featurettes in the future to where they actually contain some significant content....more info

  • Fair
    The cassette was in very good condition. The story: my wife loves real life movies and if it has her favorite actor... imagine. She loved it....more info
  • Good movie but...
    calling it "The best Thriller of the year" is a little bit exagerated ! It all takes some time but keep watching and you'll see it's a good movie. I have seen the "Good old 12 inch Laserdisc" version so I can't comment on the DVD's quality. That of the LD was SUPERB !...more info
  • Lack's Power!
    This film is based on a true story that took place in the New England area in 1981. It could have been so good. But what happened? Steven Zaillian (Oscar Winner for his great adaption of Schindlers List) wrote and directed the film. It stars Schlichtmann (John Travolta) as a lawyer who takes on the case about the numerous deaths reported in the New England area. There deaths have something to do with the towns water. Two parents in particular (Kathleen Quinlan and James Gandolfini) just want a simple "were sorry" from the company that is responsible for the toxic waste in the water supply. Zaillians film runs only around two hours, but the book is over 500 pages. It just is not complete. So much seems to be missing. The film also strays off from the true story found in the book. (William H. Macy and Tony Shalhoub)Travolta's law firm partners take the fall with him after the case goes down hill at their firm. Jerome Facher (Robert Duvall) is the lawyer against Travolta. (Dan Hedaya and Sydney Pollack) round out the rest of the cast. The film which could have been so good, never got onto it's own two feet and was not at all able to generate anything other than question after question. Sadly we never recieve one good response. Or realistic performance. Grade:D-...more info
  • Wildly Entertaining!
    From beginning to end, "A Civil Action" starring John Travolta and Robert Duvall provided the basic elements of a great movie: a developed plot, suspense, and humor. This movie can be enjoyed by practically everyone, althought it helps to have some legal knowledge, but what common idiot doesn't? So, run to the store and grab this video off the shelf before they are gone!...more info
  • Hmmm...ok
    What made me give the movie such a low rating is the ending. The movie starts strong and continues to be solid and well done, until the end. But the end itself is so-so.


    * Of course, this is one of those John Travolta-gets-20-mil movies, so it must be good, right? Well, maybe. John certainly gave a terrific performance in the movie.

    * The movie is virtually star-studded. It includes such great actors as Robert Duvall, William H. Macy, and most importantly, John Lithgow. I love this guy. After seeing him do an awesome job on 3rd Rock from the Sun, it's nice to see him do something very serious again. He is amazingly convincing as the judge in the movie, and when he angrily screams, acting doesn't get any better. The movie also contains two of my all time favorite supporting actors, Dan Hedaya (Dick, First Wives Club) and James Gandolfini (Tony Soprano).

    * One of the most exciting things in movies is the trial scenes (just watch A Few Good Men and Primal Fear). The trial scenes in this movie are pretty good.


    * At the end, what happened? Instead of writing what happened to the characters we hated, we should've seen it. That ruined the ending.

    Bottom line: Worth a rent....more info

  • A Poor Drama
    Here is a film that slowly and solidly builds to a rather unsatisfying climax and essentially leaves its audience hanging out to dry. The film's denouement is ineptly filmed and edited and leaves the viewer empty with an unemotional response or better yet no response. This is a perfect example of post-romantic Hollywood filmmaking where visuals are not on the screen but are left to the mind's eye....more info
    John Travolta gives an award winning performance in this movie. Its about everything thats wrong with our justice system. Its about a man who has everything but will risk it all for the sake of what he comes to think is right. Iv seen alot of John Travoltas' movies and this is by far one of my favorites. Its a great movie and I would recommend to anybody !!!...more info
    You know the old saying that courtroom movies are supposed to be boring right.Well forget that and enjoy this one which deals with a story that was worth telling.The story ressembles ERIN BROKOVICH in many aspects:it is about humans and the way a irresponsable corporation can cause deaths just because the job wasn't done right.ROBERT DUVALL in a supporting role steals the show,but JOHN TRAVOLTA is also well cast.You'll laugh when you'll see him get two speed contaventions in a row.You'll also understand while viewing this,why justice is a game that can get as far as morgatging your house as a guarantee for handling the debts of a trial.I'd rather see ten films like this rather than one mindless science-fiction techno action bore ,complete with heavy-metal music....more info
  • A so-so plot carried through by good acting
    the only thing that helped this movie was good acting. travolta gave a very convincing performance, and duvall was magnificent. other than this however, the plot was nothing more than a drawn-out episode of law and order. it was interesting, but not the action-packed suspense movie some might expect. nonetheless, worth the rental, not the purchase....more info
  • A good movie that based on a true story
    It is a nice drama piece. If you like the Rain Maker, you may enjoy this movie as well....more info
  • Over-Hyped and Downright Boring!
    This film was really too over-rated. They said it was the best political thriller of all time? No way! Its too drawn out, the acting is ok, but that was thanks to John Travolta (who wasnt all that good himself), and well William H Macy isnt any good. James Gandolfini is ok, but hes only in 15 minutes, (and thats pushing it).

    The film is about this law firm, who is headed by John Travolta (Pulp Fiction, Grease). His firm is rich, and only worry about themselves, until he finds this woman who is needing help. Supposedly her son, along with seven other children have died from leukemia. They suspect its the drinking water. As John Travolta struggles to find out what happened, even if it means he will loose his reputation, career, and his home.

    This film has a really good cast with John Travolta, Robert Duvall (The Godfather, The Godfather Part II), William H Macy (Magnolia, Air Force One), and James Gandolfini (The Sopranos, Get Shorty). But that dont always make for a good movie. This film is just not my cup of tea. If you want to see something of this nature check out The Insider (Russell Crowe, Al Pacino) or Erin Brokovich (Julia Roberts).

    * Region 1 encoding (US and Canada only)
    * Color, Closed-captioned, Widescreen
    * Theatrical trailer(s)
    * Production featurette
    * Widescreen (2:35:1)...more info

  • I repeat >> snalen "snalen" .................
    I copy and paste >> snalen "snalen" - (another reviewer's commentary here) who expressed it perfectly. "snalen" said:

    Jan Schlichtmann (Travolta) is a Boston tort lawyer and something of an ambulance chaser who is initially reluctant to take on an industrial pollution case involving some children dead of leukemia in rural New England. He changes his mind when he realizes the likely defendants are a couple of big companies with particularly deep pockets and smells the possibility of serious money. Over time, however his interest in the case becomes a moral obsession. The cynical becomes a crusader, refusing offers to settle as his company's finances spiral downwards towards bankruptcy.
    If you like courtroom dramas, this is highly recommended. It's one of the best specimens of the genre to come out of America since `The Verdict'. It's interesting to compare it to `Erin Brockovich' released a couple of years later. EB is about how a heroic small timer takes on the big boys of corporate America and how her pluck and determination triumphs over all obstacles, something of a legal feelgood movie in other words. Which this, to its great credit, is not. Its central character, for starters, is far more amibivalently likeable: initially just out for a fast buck, moral seriousness has to creep up on him and take him by surprise (perhaps reminding writer/director Zaillian of Oskar Schindler whose story he scripted for Spielberg a few years earlier) and the story's development paints a significantly more ambivalent picture of what pluck and determination can accomplish. It's a highpoint of Travolta's acting career even if he is comprehensively upstaged by Robert Duvall, on brilliant form as his quietly cynical adversary, bigshot lawyer Jerome Facher who knows far better than to look for the truth in a courtroom...

    And I add, a VERY entertaining and interesting movie with some redeeming social value, a very provacative movie that should inspire many 'thoughtful' viewers to an enlightened perspective ... that may not have ever been considered before!

    ...more info
  • Acceptable loss
    This book focuses on a narrow slice of the history of the problem in Woburn.

    The introduction of this book also destroyed lives of which the general public is unfamiliar. One such life is Ken Grant, a former Grace employee charged with protecting the general public in the aftermath of Grace's controversial environmental history.

    Grant worked as a safety & environmental professional who had worked for a couple of divisions of Grace. Grant was an active volunteer in many charities in Massachusetts and grew up as anunwanted youngster in state child care. As a young child Grant was crippled,abandoned and abused.

    Grant lived in Woburn a number of years and in most all the neighborhoods where the earliest cases of leukemia arose, was treated at the same hospitals as those children and also appeared in court.

    When this book came out, his medical records suddenly became unavailable, he was rousted from Grace and unable to get good references from Grace despite years of solid service. A long strong of strange events unfolded in which he began to research his hidden past and he was eventually driven into long term unemployment,bankruptcy and homelessness because no one would hire him in Massachusetts. All of this unfolded in the face of the fact that Grant was too young when the leukemia epidemic arose to know what was going on and was shuffled around so often as to keep his equilibrium off balance.As a child Grant was hospitalized long term and shuffled about.As an adult Grant was prevented from finding viable career stability. Amongst all this, no one involved with the book or movie spoke with him....more info

  • It was okay
    I found some parts unrealistic. Overall, it was a satisfying enough rental....more info
  • Solid Flick with very pertinent material despite its age.
    As a former resident of the Greater Boston area this was a film that evoked memories on a number of levels. The investigations of cancer clusters and their relationship to EPA Super Fund Sites is still something that should be coordinated. Moving film with solid performances.The follow up to the story is perhaps more hopeful. The sites have been cleaned and are being utilized! Despite the irepairable damage done to these families America can heal itself via the tenacious actions of its citizen/victims and the scar tissue shoud be a reminder as to the dangerous and destructive nature of unmonitored business interests. ...more info
  • Cleaning Up a Mess
    A voice explains the worth of a person in tort law. A young child is worth the least, a white middle-aged professional is worth the most. A Massachusetts hospital is being sued, the lawyers agree to a settlement after the jury is selected. [Does this match your experience?] Personal injury lawyers are the sole defense against a corporation for the average citizen. The small town of Woburn lost a dozen young children to leukemia. They blame contaminated drinking water, but that may be difficult to prove. Will Jan Schlichtman take this case? It takes a lot of money to bring a case to trial. Fate brings Schlichtman to that industrial site where waste is dumped into the river. The need for a lunch hour is explained (to promote sanity in a hectic environment).

    The judge seems biased against personal injury lawyers. Rule 11 is old and ambiguous. Discovery goes on to learn about waster disposal from the industries. One witness knows something. "Did you ever eat peanut butter?" Silicone and TCE are spilled on leather for waterproofing; where does the waste go? The costs for doctors and geologists are high. They must borrow money from a bank for expenses. One employee tells more to Jan. Another man tells what they did: just dumped it in the ground. Most cases are settled not tried. Jan gives his price for a settlement. Too high?

    The trial begins. A civil suit is over money for suffering and damage. The witnesses testify. A phone call brings Jan to the judge's chambers. If they can't prove the chemicals reached the wells there is no case. The jury must decide three questions. Jerry talks about Truth and a Court of Law. Will Jan settle for $20 million? Or less? What is the trial about? Money or Justice? There is a settlement. After costs and fees there is $375,000 per family. Will that site be cleaned?

    Jan remembers about spilling that glass of water. Somebody had to clean it up, and there will be records. How could a fire ignite water? Jan would file an appeal, the odds are against it. But he can't afford it so he sends the records to the EPA (they have the resources). The result was the closure of the factories in Woburn. Jan filed for bankruptcy. What happened? After paying off debts Jan took on a similar case in Toms River NJ.
    ...more info
  • Well-adapted story with terrific acting
    After recently reading Jonathan Harr's book A Civil Action, I eagerly awaited seeing the movie version of this sad and absorbing story. The film version condenses the story and leaves out several interesting portions of the book, but is fine nevertheless. John Travolta is a perfect choice to play Jan Schlichtmann, the egotistical, free-spending attorney who dives headfirst into a damages case against the corporate giants Beatrice and W.R. Grace, who are accused of poisoning the drinking water of Woburn, Massachusetts and causing a leukemia outbreak. William H. Macy, Tony Shalhoub, and Zeljko Ivanek co-star as Schlichtmann's partners in the firm, and one only wishes that they would have protested his actions, which led to the financial ruin of him and his firm.

    Robert Duvall gives another terrific performance as Jerome Facher, Beatrice's attorney, who is the complete opposite of Schlichtmann. In a scene at a fancy hotel conference room, the frugal Facher is not impressed by any of the lawyers or their arguments, but the free pen that he can take home. It's a subtly funny scene that illustrates Facher perfectly. John Lithgow does a terrific job as Judge Walter Skinner, who Schlichtmann believes is siding with the enemy.

    A Civil Action is a story where the winners and losers are unclear, and it must have been difficult for writer-director Steven Zaillian to condense Harr's technical-laden novel. The result is a solid drama with powerhouse acting. Highly recommended....more info

  • Far from great, but some great performances help keep the audience satisfied...
    I'll be completely honest here. I saw `A Civil Action' because I am in love with James Gandolfini. Sadly his character has very little screen time although he is quite convincing with what he has to work with. What I found though was a nice little court room drama that is interesting as much as it is frustrating and deserves at least a little attention. This movie is by no means a brilliant film, but it does sport a few excellent performances that help elevate the plot and leave the audience at least satisfied with the overall effect of the film.

    `A Civil Action' is based on a true story of the small town of Woburn Massachusetts where two large corporations through carelessness and negligence poisoned the drinking water thus resulting in the deaths of eight children. The town hires Jan Schlichtmann, a personal injury attorney, to find out what killed their children and get them an apology. Money is not important to them, but as Schlichtmann points out, money is how these corporations apologize. Jan, who was initially apposed to the case, becomes personally invested which, as he brings out, is the worst thing a lawyer can do. As he goes to battle with the lawyers for the two corporations, WR Grace and Beatrice Foods, it appears he may be in way over his head.

    Where the movie shines is in interaction between Schlichtmann and rival lawyer Jerome Facher, thanks in large part to the performances by both Travolta and Duvall. John Travolta may play Schlichtmann almost a polar opposite to the actual man himself, but this to me helps aid the film along. Travolta is very cool and collected here, very polished and confident and that helps the audience feel drawn to him. He's going after what he believes in and no one will stop him and that is a very endearing or at least admirable quality. Robert Duvall is the perfect complement to Travolta here. He gives Facher so much charisma that the viewer can't keep their eyes and mind off of him. His performance is brilliantly executed and well deserving of the Oscar nomination.

    Where the movie falters though is the one place I was really hoping that it would shine and that is of the aftermath of the events on the survivors. Don't get me wrong, the performances by the likes of Kathleen Quinlan and James Gandolfini are excellent and portray enough pain and even quilt but they are limited in their effectiveness because so much focus is shifted to the battle between lawyers. It would have been nice to have the focus more on the families and their struggle for answers. If this had been the focal point of the movie I think it would have transcended the average legal drama and become something much more.

    The performances throughout are all commendable, not just those of Travolta, Duvall, Quinlan and Gandolfini. William H. Macy especially deserves some commendation. His portrayal of James Gordon is brilliant. John Lithgow is also exceptionally good as Judge Walter J. Skinner. He's very powerful, and that's not something I expected from him. Sydney Pollack is great in his cameo, no matter how small his scene is, and delivers with expert conviction and Dan Hedaya is very hate-worthy as the malicious and selfish John Riley. Tony Shalhoub and Zelijko Ivanek (who I just LOVED on `Damages') are sorely underused as Schlichtmann and Gordon's partners Kevin Conway and Bill Crowley; in fact I think I only heard Ivanek utter like two sentences.

    In the end `A Civil Action' is one of those movies that will not disappoint but it will not outstand either. Aside from some on point acting it is truly a generic and formulistic film that has been done before, and better I might add, but it won't leave you wishing you hadn't wasted your time either. Watch this for the legal banter and brilliance that is Duvall but don't expect too much in regards to a real emotional drama for, like Schlichtmann advises, the audience is never really allowed to get personally invested....more info
  • Delayed justice, delayed clean-up
    A team of attorneys takes on a case that leaves them bankrupt and their firm destroyed, and years later, the EPA is the one that wins the case and forces two polluting companies to clean up their collective act. Well acted by Travolta, Duvall, Quinlan, and many others. It takes longer than necessary to tell the story, but makes a strong point about corporate responsibility, liability, and personal struggles....more info
  • A gripping legal drama.
    John Travolta is brilliant as personal injury lawyer Jan Sclictman who clearly gets in over his head in this story based on actual events. Robert Duvall, Kathleen Quinlan, And William H. Macy lead a supporting cast in this must see DVD. I highly recommend it....more info
  • A Great film about law
    A Civil Action is a great look at the judicial system and how one man defied the odds to get justice for the common man. Even though this film was a box office flop it should've been nominated for Best Picture instead of the ... so called comedy Life Is Beautiful...more info
  • A page turner
    A heart wrenching page turner! You will root for this guy all along. You will bite your nails, become invested and get your heart broken.

    Don't bother renting the movie. ...more info
  • acting team was wonderful
    As usual John Travolta and Robert Duvall were tremendous. Since I knew nothing about the plot or premise of the movie, I assumed that the rich personal injury lawyer (John Travolta) would come out on top with his Porsche and Itallian made suits entact. While this production was not advertised as a thriller, or overly suspenseful, I found it to be just that, attributable to the acting of the entire cast....more info