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A Civil Action (1998)

PG-13 | | Drama | 8 January 1999 (USA)
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A tenacious lawyer takes on a case involving a major company responsible for causing several people to be diagnosed with leukemia due to the town's water supply being contaminated, at the risk of bankrupting his firm and career.

Director:

Steven Zaillian

Writers:

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

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
John Travolta ... Jan Schlichtmann
Robert Duvall ... Jerome Facher
Tony Shalhoub ... Kevin Conway
William H. Macy ... James Gordon
Zeljko Ivanek ... Bill Crowley
Bruce Norris Bruce Norris ... William Cheeseman
John Lithgow ... Judge Walter J. Skinner
Kathleen Quinlan ... Anne Anderson
Peter Jacobson ... Neil Jacobs
Mary Mara ... Kathy Boyer
James Gandolfini ... Al Love
Stephen Fry ... Pinder
Dan Hedaya ... John Riley
David Thornton ... Richard Aufiero
Sydney Pollack ... 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:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

8 January 1999 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Una acción civil See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$75,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$70,079, 27 December 1998, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$56,702,901, 2 May 1999
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

DTS | Dolby Digital | SDDS

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Steven Zaillian adapted the screenplay with nobody else but Robert Duvall in mind for the role of Jerome Facher. See more »

Goofs

In the Crane vs. Massachusetts General Hospital case with the wheelchair plaintiff, the defense lawyer writes a settlement offer for $1.2 million on a Post-It note with a Mont Blanc tapered tip pen but the scene cuts back to the amount being written with a flat top Waterman. 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 ...
See more »

Crazy Credits

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

Connections

Referenced in Cold Case: Breaking News (2009) See more »

Soundtracks

Theme
from A Summer Place (1959)
Music by Max Steiner
Performed by Percy Faith and His Orchestra (uncredited)
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
Straightforward legal case with environmental overtures...
20 June 2006 | by moonspinner55See all my reviews

John Travolta gives a dandy performance as a cocky Boston personal injury lawyer who heads up a small but burgeoning firm, almost passing up on headline-making case of a major food company subsidiary found to be dumping toxic chemicals into the water supply of a small-town Massachusettes town, causing many of the children there to get sick or die. Neatly directed and scripted film from Jonathan Harr's factual book allows for both legal statistics and some dry legal humor, and avoids exploiting an emotionally-wrenching theme (the death of children) for hug-tugging sentiment. The film is direct and compact, pausing only occasionally for a dramatic character turn, and is handsomely-made if not terrifically entertaining. Travolta and nemesis lawyer Robert Duvall (smiling like the Cheshire Cat) are wonderful to watch sparring with one another, and the specifics of the case are intriguing. **1/2 from ****


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