A Civil Action (1998)

A CIVIL ACTION is a compelling, if at times monotonous courtroom 
drama about the real-life class-action suit against a pair of deep-
pocketed corporations that brought national attention to a cluster 
of child leukemia deaths (traced to not-very-well well water) in 
eastern Massachusetts.  Adapting Jonathan Harr's bestseller, writ-
er/director Steven Zaillian (SEARCHING FOR BOBBY FISHER, the script 
for SCHINDLER'S LIST) sets an all-star cast loose on a meaty-but-
hardly-melodramatic plot that approaches the conflict not from the 
viewpoint of the victims, boo hoo hoo, but, rather, the cold calc-
ulus of what does and doesn't sell in front of a jury.  (As is ex- 
plained in the startlingly effective opening.)  Early scenes are 
the most potent, with John Travolta and Company sizing up the award 
potential of small-town grief.  Hour two is lots of legal business, 
but without any shootouts, car chases, or bedroom romps to liven up 
the action.  (This ain't no Grisham film.)  There isn't even an 
easy arc for Travolta's character.  His high-paid ambulance chaser 
grows, sure, but not by any crowd-pleasing leaps or bounds.  Be 
prepared:  you might be bored.  With Tony Shaloub, Robert Duvall, 
William H. Macy, James Gandolfini, John Lithgow, Dan Hedaya, Kath-
leen Quinlan, that WILDE guy Stephen Fry, and, at the end, a dandy, 
uncredited cameo by... oh, I'm not going to tell.  (Rated "R"/112 

Grade: B

Copyright 1999 Michael J. Legeros
Movie Hell is a trademark of Michael J. Legeros

Originally posted to triangle.movies in MOVIE HELL: Civility

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Copyright 2001 by Michael J. Legeros -Movie Hell™ is a trademark of Michael J. Legeros