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A Civil Action (1998)

PG-13 | | Drama | 8 January 1999 (USA)
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The families of children who died sue two companies for dumping toxic waste: a tort so expensive to prove, the case could bankrupt their lawyer.

Director:

Writers:

(book), (screenplay)
Nominated for 2 Oscars. Another 5 wins & 8 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
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Bruce Norris ...
William Cheeseman
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...
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Neil Jacobs
...
...
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Pinder
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Richard Aufiero
...
Al Eustis
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Storyline

Jan Schlichtmann, a tenacious lawyer, is addressed by a group of families. When investigating the seemingly non-profiting case, he finds it to be a major environmental issue that has a lot of impact potential. A leather production company could be responsible for several deadly cases of leukemia, but also is the main employer for the area. Schlichtmann and his three colleagues set out to have the company forced to decontaminate the affected areas, and of course to sue for a major sum of compensation. But the lawyers of the leather company's mother company are not easy to get to, and soon Schlichtmann and his friends find themselves in a battle of mere survival. Written by Julian Reischl <julianreischl@mac.com>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

Justice has its price.

Genres:

Drama

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG-13 for some strong language | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

8 January 1999 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Una acción civil  »

Box Office

Budget:

$60,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$70,079 (USA) (25 December 1998)

Gross:

$56,702,901 (USA) (30 April 1999)
 »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

| |

Color:

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

A number of scenes described in the book are reproduced in the film, such as Facher's asking for the hotel pen at the settlement conference, Schlictmann's meeting with Eustis at the Harvard Club in New York, Gordon's attempts to keep the firm solvent (even purchasing lottery tickets and giving money to televangelists) and Riley's behavior at his deposition. See more »

Goofs

When Boston and Jan Schlichtmann's office suffers a widespread power outage during an evening thunderstorm, he uses a PBX90 AT&T Merlin office phone which would've been inoperable without AC electricity thus he couldn't have called Al Eustis at W.R. Grace. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Jan Schlichtmann: [narrating] It's like this. A dead plaintiff is rarely worth as much as a living, severely-maimed plaintiff. However, if it's a long slow agonizing death, as opposed to a quick drowning or car wreck, the value can rise considerably. A dead adult in his 20s is generally worth less than one who is middle aged. A dead woman less than a dead man. A single adult less than one who's married. Black less than white. Poor less than rich. The perfect victim is a white male professional, 40 ...
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Crazy Credits

The producers wish to thank the people of Boston, Waltham, Northbridge, Charlestown, Dedham, Brimfield and Palmer, MA. See more »


Soundtracks

Hard Workin' Man
(1978)
Music by Jack Nitzsche
Lyrics by Jack Nitzsche, Ry Cooder, Paul Schrader
Performed by Don Van Vliet (as Captain Beefheart)
Courtesy of MCA Records
Under license from Universal Music Special Markets
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

Skillful rendition of the book on film.
31 January 1999 | by (New Bern, NC USA) – See all my reviews

How to interpret viewer comments on this film:

"Slow-moving" = ...no car chases.

"poor acting" = ...no karate chops

"too long" = ...longer than a music video

"dull" = ...See "Slow-moving"

"A Civil Action" was a fine book, and the film does it justice. No, it's not perfect, but it is emotionally moving, and faithful to the non-fiction account of the case.

Some of the heart-rending short scenes featuring parents of the child-victims (the father at the deposition; the parents trying to revive the dying child in the car) were absolute masterpieces. There should be special Academy Awards available for brief scenes of this kind that are too "small" for Best Supporting Actor awards, but are, in themselves, worthy of acclaim.


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