6.6/10
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184 user 116 critic

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

Several scenes described in the book were 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 City, 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

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

Featured in The 71st Annual Academy 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

 
Good, but not great
5 September 2004 | by TBJCSKCNRRQTreviewsSee all my reviews

As far as courtroom dramas go, this is by no means great. I've seen plenty of them, as American law system interests me. The greatest would arguably be A Few Good Men... this is pretty much in the order end of the spectrum, being a fairly slight courtroom drama. It has just enough good points to it to keep it above average, but only *just* enough. I think the way the story was told was fairly standard, but good anyway. I liked Travolta's voice-overs, and liked the fact that it's not the typical cliché-like ending, where, against all odds, the case is won. I won't tell you exactly how it ends, but the ending is pretty good, and not as predictable as many of the courtroom dramas are. The plot is good, and develops, at least in the beginning, pretty good, and with a good pace. However, somewhere in the last half, the pace drops and you find yourself being bored with the film. Too bad, since it started out so promising. The acting is very good; Duvall and Travolta are obviously good, but Macy and Lithgow were surprisingly good(not that they're typically bad, though). The supporting cast also do their jobs well. The characters are well-written, credible, and well-casted. The humor, though rare in the film, is mostly good. All in all, a pretty good courtroom drama, based on a true story, and a basic story of inexperienced against experienced, as they say in the featurette on the DVD. I recommend it to fans of courtroom dramas, and fans of any of the actors. 7/10


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