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5.0 out of 5 stars Intelligent and Compelling Courtroom Drama
Jan Schlichtmann (Travolta) is a Boston tort lawyer and something of an ambulance chaser who is initially reluctant to take on an industrial pollution case involving some children dead of leukaemia in rural New England. He changes his mind when he realizes the likely defendants are a couple of big companies with particularly deep pockets and smells the possibility of...
Published on March 9 2004 by snalen

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars Travolta is a good actor
A Civil Action:
Water. It's a basic fact we need it to survive. The human body can go longer without food than it can water. But what do you do when the water you need to survive may be killing your children? A small town in the North Eastern part of the United States faced this very problem in the 1970s.
John Travolta plays Lawyer Jan Schlictmann in this...
Published on Feb. 17 2002 by Gerald Booth


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5.0 out of 5 stars A Very Good Drama Film , But!?, March 4 2003
By A Customer
This review is from: A Civil Action (Bilingual) (DVD)
A really great story supposely based on true story gripping in it's tale of greedy & lies behind a secret that could destroy a town & company along with it . john travolta does an excellent job as the lawyer seeking the truth behind the lies but it may cost him all he has . The beef i have with this film though is that it should have got an R - rating for the lauagage in it shame on the rating people for letting it slide by . it has the f word three times it . i personally think that it could have done without it , but hey that's just me, besides that it's a great flick . if they ever do an edited of this film just take the lauguage out leave content in thank you. if you still would like to see this picture parents may want to screen it first there nothing that would offend you, But the profanity. the whole cast does great job.
Highly Recommended still,
I still think it should've got an R- Rating.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Law stripped bare., Dec 28 2002
By 
Paul Fogarty "Hopeless film addict!" (LA, United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: A Civil Action (Bilingual) (DVD)
"A Civil Action" is based on a true legal case; two corporations poisoned the water supply of a town in Massachusetts with carcinogens, for years, 'til they were finally taken to court in 1981, by the families of eight child leukemia victims, who sued them.
I have to say up front that I have not, as yet, read the book, so I have no idea how faithful the screen adaptation is to the characters or events portrayed. Nor do I have any legal training, so I cannot argue procedural points and inaccuracies etc, so I will be reviewing the film for what it is, a film I enjoyed enormously in the cinema when it was first released, then bought on DVD.
For me, "A Civil Action" is about the sins, and ultimate redemption, of an amoral, sleaze-bag, ambulance chasing, personal injury lawyer named Jan Schlichtmann, played to perfection by John Travolta. His sins are many, but chief amongst them are, greed - DUH, he's a LAWYER! - avarice, and the one that brings about his ultimate downfall, pride.
We are introduced to the way Mr Schlichtmann operates in a blackly funny prologue. This shows said sleaze-bag lawyer pushing one of his wheelchair bound clients into court, arranging his pillows, getting him a drink, wiping away the resultant drips and drools. All the while jury members desperately try to choke back their tears, and the defending lawyers in the medical malpractice case equally desperately try to settle before the trial proper begins by writing increasingly large numbers on a pad for Schlichtmann to approve. While this is all going on Mr Schlichtmann gives a wonderfully deadpan voiceover, explaining how much you can expect to receive for various types of injury; loss of limb, blindness, death etc. Next we see our hero striding purposefully down the street, passing a traffic accident, handing his card to both parties, and moving on without hardly breaking step!
But the film is not a one-man-show. It has an excellent core cast comprising Tony Shalhoub and William H Macey as Schlichtmann's partners, Kathleen Quinlan and a pre "Sopranos" James Gandolfini as grieving parents. Dan Hedaya as the owner of the plant at the center of the story, John Lithgow as the trial judge, and last, but definitely NOT least, Robert Duval, the main defending lawyer, and Schlichtmann's nemesis, Jerome Facher.
After the opening prologue, we see that Schlichtmann's practice has inherited the "poisoning" case, but can do nothing with it because they can't find anyone to sue! Schlichtmann decides that he will personally visit the defendants and tell them that - sorry! - there's nothing to be done. While there he discovers that there is indeed someone to sue, the land and plant are owned by two of America's major corporations... these people, and his practice, are sitting on, as he describes it, "a gold mine!" The case continues, overwhelming evidence is gathered, Schlichtmann and his team talk about hundreds of millions of $'s in compensation for the aggrieved families of Woburn, Massachusetts... with a healthy percentage going to the practice itself of course! Unfortunately Schlichtmann's fatal weakness is his pride; the defendants are willing to settle out of court, but Schlichtmann is determined to take the case to trial and get the families, not only their money, but also an apology from all those concerned.
There is a beautiful scene where Facher and Schlichtmann are out in a corridor awaiting a jury's decision. Facher asks Schlichtmann what he hopes will happen, Schlichtmann replies that he hopes the jury will see the "truth," after sitting through the endless procedural BS'ing and maneuvering that has made up the case. Facher is aghast, and tells Schlichtmann that he should know that, "...a courtroom isn't a place to look for the truth." This certainly supports my own rather cynical view that there is "Justice," and there is the "Law." Unfortunately, they are rarely one and the same.
The blurb on the jacket claims that "A Civil Action" is, "The best legal thriller ever." I personally believe this quote does the film a major disservice; by calling it a "thriller" it gives the audience the idea that this is going to be something formulaic and Hollywood, with the requisite "Hollywood" ending, it's not. It's based on true events and shows the legal system here in the USA stripped bare, it shows the impartial brutality of the adversarial system, and how one mans flaws can be amplified by that system, 'til they consume not only him, but all those around him.
I think this is an excellent film, as are the performances of all concerned. But be warned, this is NOT a "feel good" movie, unlike "Erin Brockovich," with which it shares many surface similarities, and it is this that probably explains why it pretty much bombed here in the US, but was a big hit in the UK. There is a bitter-sweet ending, given to us in a coda which shows the ultimate price Mr Schlichtmann paid for his involvement in the case, and what he is doing now. And yes, for those of us out there who ever doubted it, "A Civil Action," the film credited with re-launching ol' swivel hips' career, proves, once and for all, that John Travolta CAN act!
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4.0 out of 5 stars Acceptable loss, Nov. 7 2002
By A Customer
This review is from: A Civil Action (VHS Tape)
This book focuses on a narrow slice of the history of the problem in Woburn.
The introduction of this book also destroyed lives of which the general public is unfamiliar. One such life is Ken Grant, a former Grace employee charged with protecting the general public in the aftermath of Grace's controversial environmental history.
Grant worked as a safety & environmental professional who had worked for a couple of divisions of Grace. Grant was an active volunteer in many charities in Massachusetts and grew up as anunwanted youngster in state child care. As a young child Grant was crippled,abandoned and abused.
Grant lived in Woburn a number of years and in most all the neighborhoods where the earliest cases of leukemia arose, was treated at the same hospitals as those children and also appeared in court.
When this book came out, his medical records suddenly became unavailable, he was rousted from Grace and unable to get good references from Grace despite years of solid service. A long strong of strange events unfolded in which he began to research his hidden past and he was eventually driven into long term unemployment,bankruptcy and homelessness because no one would hire him in Massachusetts. All of this unfolded in the face of the fact that Grant was too young when the leukemia epidemic arose to know what was going on and was shuffled around so often as to keep his equilibrium off balance.As a child Grant was hospitalized long term and shuffled about.As an adult Grant was prevented from finding viable career stability. Amongst all this, no one involved with the book or movie spoke with him.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Accurate Portrayal of Carrion Jackal Shysters, June 6 2002
By A Customer
This review is from: A Civil Action (VHS Tape)
This is an extremely entertaining film, well worth seeing.
Among other things, it features an exchange wherein Jerome Facher (Robert Duvall) said to Jan Schlichtmann (John Travolta) that lawsuits are the means by which lawyers "make money."
Lawyers definitely do not "make" money. "Making" money means bringing into being something of value that people genuinely want. It does not mean being a jackal to misfortune and/or promulgating a bunch of costly legal rigamarole. Some lawyers do help protect the money that truly productive people have made, but the overwhelming majority of shysters are out to simply GET (grab, loot, cozen, swindle) as much of that money as they can, via any conceivable means by which they can skim it from the pot. That is certainly the sort of lawyer we saw in this terrific film.
And to top it off, you get to hear Talking Heads' "Take Me To The River" at the end of it. GREAT song!
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4.0 out of 5 stars PANIC IN BOSTON, April 28 2002
By 
ALAIN ROBERT (ST-HUBERT,QUÉBEC) - See all my reviews
This review is from: A Civil Action (VHS Tape)
You know the old saying that courtroom movies are supposed to be boring right.Well forget that and enjoy this one which deals with a story that was worth telling.The story ressembles ERIN BROKOVICH in many aspects:it is about humans and the way a irresponsable corporation can cause deaths just because the job wasn't done right.ROBERT DUVALL in a supporting role steals the show,but JOHN TRAVOLTA is also well cast.You'll laugh when you'll see him get two speed contaventions in a row.You'll also understand while viewing this,why justice is a game that can get as far as morgatging your house as a guarantee for handling the debts of a trial.I'd rather see ten films like this rather than one mindless science-fiction techno action bore ,complete with heavy-metal music.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Great film about law, Feb. 21 2002
By 
This review is from: A Civil Action (VHS Tape)
A Civil Action is a great look at the judicial system and how one man defied the odds to get justice for the common man. Even though this film was a box office flop it should've been nominated for Best Picture instead of the ... so called comedy Life Is Beautiful
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3.0 out of 5 stars Travolta is a good actor, Feb. 17 2002
By 
Gerald Booth (Alexandria, VA United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: A Civil Action (VHS Tape)
A Civil Action:
Water. It's a basic fact we need it to survive. The human body can go longer without food than it can water. But what do you do when the water you need to survive may be killing your children? A small town in the North Eastern part of the United States faced this very problem in the 1970s.
John Travolta plays Lawyer Jan Schlictmann in this movie based off a true story. Jan is the hottest young lawyer in Boston. He is a personal claims lawyer (some would call him an ambulance chaser of the highest degree) with a thriving small practice. He is one of the 10 most eligible bachelors in Boston. Jan will do anything to win a case. He has his own personal equation as to which person will bring in the most money from a trial and thus fill his pockets the deepest. The client he desperately wants to avoid is a dead child as they are worth the least in a jury verdict.
Everything is going well for Jan and then a case with at least 10 dead children drops into his lap. This case is known as an "orphan" as it has landed in every prominent lawyer's office and all have passed on it prior to him. Jan meets with the families to give them a personal "No thank you." While there he finds of their suspicions as to chemicals that have been dumped into the ground and poisoned the water supply. What interests Jan the most is the parent companies behind the dumping. Suddenly a no interest case becomes one which could net him millions.
The rest of the movie deals with Jan's obsessive involvement with this case. How it raises him to an almost unheard of prominence and dumps him into the lowest levels he has ever been.
John Travolta does a good job in this role. He can play the ultimate of arrogance and also the most wounded of individuals as he grows to learn more about what life is truly about. William H. Macy is Jan's financial affairs person who is desperately trying to keep the firm afloat as Jan's obsession causes them to spend more and more. John Lithgow is fine as the Judge. Robert Duvall is great as the opposing lawyer who gives Jan a lesson in legal theatrics.
The movie is well done but a little slow at times. Definitely would recommend it as the performances by all move this one.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Over-Hyped and Downright Boring!, Nov. 22 2001
This review is from: A Civil Action (Bilingual) (DVD)
This film was really too over-rated. They said it was the best political thriller of all time? No way! Its too drawn out, the acting is ok, but that was thanks to John Travolta (who wasnt all that good himself), and well William H Macy isnt any good. James Gandolfini is ok, but hes only in 15 minutes, (and thats pushing it).
The film is about this law firm, who is headed by John Travolta (Pulp Fiction, Grease). His firm is rich, and only worry about themselves, until he finds this woman who is needing help. Supposedly her son, along with seven other children have died from leukemia. They suspect its the drinking water. As John Travolta struggles to find out what happened, even if it means he will loose his reputation, career, and his home.
This film has a really good cast with John Travolta, Robert Duvall (The Godfather, The Godfather Part II), William H Macy (Magnolia, Air Force One), and James Gandolfini (The Sopranos, Get Shorty). But that dont always make for a good movie. This film is just not my cup of tea. If you want to see something of this nature check out The Insider (Russell Crowe, Al Pacino) or Erin Brokovich (Julia Roberts).
• Region 1 encoding (US and Canada only)
• Color, Closed-captioned, Widescreen
• Theatrical trailer(s)
• Production featurette
• Widescreen (2:35:1)
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5.0 out of 5 stars Perfect Man For The Job, Aug. 22 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: A Civil Action (VHS Tape)
Based on Jonathon Harr's best-selling book, A Civil Action is about a large company knowingly contaminating drinking water. After the citizens of the town convince John Travolta a big-time undefeated attorney to represent them several more victims of irrational numbers of lekukimia die Travolta risks it all to put and end to the contaminating.
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2.0 out of 5 stars A Poor Drama, July 5 2001
By 
This review is from: A Civil Action (Bilingual) (DVD)
Here is a film that slowly and solidly builds to a rather unsatisfying climax and essentially leaves its audience hanging out to dry. The film's denouement is ineptly filmed and edited and leaves the viewer empty with an unemotional response or better yet no response. This is a perfect example of post-romantic Hollywood filmmaking where visuals are not on the screen but are left to the mind's eye.
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