A CIVIL ACTION Send This Review to a Friend
As personal injury lawyer Jan Schlichtmann, John Travolta starts off as a crass example of the profession. He's interested only in making the money. But as "A Civil Action" unfolds, Travolta's character, at great cost to his firm, becomes a concerned citizen fighting the big company interests he believes responsible for the pollution that has led to illness and death in a rural New England town.
The story, written and directed by Steven Zaillian and based on Jonathan Harr's book about a true situation, has the dramatic power of pitting a David against corporate Goliaths. But we're asked to believe a lot as the all-consuming expense of fighting the case leads to wiping out the assets of Schlichtmann's partnership and destroying his relationship with his partners. Schlichtmann becomes a better if poorer human being and there is the satisfaction of a partial if not total victory, underscored by an addendum noting that the Environmental Protection Agency successfully took up the battle.
Travolta gives a strong, personable performance as the lawyer, and there are other effective contributions by Robert Duvall as a wily, low-keyed and confident corporate attorney, and other cast members, including Tony Shalhoub, William H. Macy, Zeljko Ivanek, John Lithgow and Kathleeen Quinlan. The overall result, however, is more like a worthy television drama than a compelling movie experience. A Touchstone Pictures release.