6.5/10
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184 user 114 critic

A Civil Action (1998)

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

Director:

Writers:

(book), (screenplay)

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ON DISC
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 ...
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Neil Jacobs
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Pinder
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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:

$75,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$15,163,484 (USA) (10 January 1999)

Gross:

$56,702,901 (USA) (2 May 1999)
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Company Credits

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Technical Specs

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Sound Mix:

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Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Multiple characters make subtle fun of Mr. Cheeseman's name, emphasizing CHEESE-man. James Gandolfini calls him Chessman after his deposition, subtly implying he is merely a pawn. This is reinforced later when Facher (Duvall) refers to himself and Schlichtman (Travolta) as Kings. Several shot set-ups also emphasize the chess-theme being played out in court. See more »

Goofs

With all his years of experience of practicing civil law, Jan would have known the settlement terms he was asking was completely unrealistic and unreasonable. 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 »

Connections

Featured in The 56th Annual Golden Globe Awards (1999) See more »

Soundtracks

Take Me to the River
(1973)
Music and Lyrics by Al Green and Teenie Hodges
Performed by Talking Heads
Courtesy of Sire Records Company
By Arrangement with Warner Special Products and licensed courtesy of EMI Records Ltd.
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
John Travolta, Conrad Hall Elevate This Nicely
26 February 2006 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

On my first viewing of this, on VHS, I thought it okay but nothing special. I caught a break, being able to obtain the DVD for almost no cost, so I looked at it again. Wow, am I glad. I loved it the second time.

The DVD brings out the cinematography which is very, very good and the picture is razor-sharp. One of Hollywood''s Hall Of Fame photographers, Conrad Hall, shot this film. Story-wise, the courtroom scenes were the most dramatic of the film but this story dealt more with the behind-the-scenes digging of information to expose thoughtless businessmen who had dumped poison in an area and people were suffering because of it. It is supposedly-based on a true story.

Another big highlight of this movie is great performance by John Travolta, perhaps his best work ever. Just the pauses and looks on his face alone greatly enhanced his performance. He was just fascinating. Language-wise, this is pretty tame except for William H. Macy, who loses his cool a few times as the assistant lawyer/financial man for the law firm battling the polluters.

It's easy to get involved with the story, but don't overlook the great photography in here.


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