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A CIVIL ACTION

Directed by Steven Zaillian
Written for the screen by Steven Zaillian
Starring John Travolta and Robert Duvall
My advice: a nice tale of personal redemption
Rating: of

I'd like to come out in the front and say that Civil action is based on actual events. If you enjoyed The Insider, this movie will not fail to entertain you as well.

Jan Schlichtmann (Travolta) is a personal injury lawyer in Boston. A celebrity of sorts, you find him successful, well dressed, and one of the most eligible bachelors in the city. He has it all and he's just getting more and more each day. The overall problem with this fellow is, with all he has, he lacks one important quality. Compassion. This guy is zero in the empathy department.

During a spot on a local radio station, as he sits patting himself on the back for what a fine fellow and stand up lawyer he is, he's confronted and embarrassed by a client he never even knew he had. Anne Anderson (Kathleen Quinlan) asks him why he hasn't done anything regarding the death of her son and several other children in her immediate neighborhood. Convinced that the water in her area is tainted by the illegal dumping of toxins from large corporate factories nearby, she can't understand why he hasn't helped them.

Schlichtmann does everything he can to absolve himself from this case. He's sure it's a losing battle and that no one could possibly be at fault and, even if they were, there's not enough money to be made. After all, that's what it's all about. Money. Forget about the children who have died and the families being poisoned all around him. He has to stuff his wallet. His Porsche needs some detailing.

After a particularly difficulty confrontation with the clients in his town, he suffers some car trouble on the way out. It's at this point that something catches his eye and so big business is born.

This is a brilliantly acted movie on all levels and the transformation of a money-grubbing lout into a man who mortgages his home and bankrupts from the sheer desire to make it as right as it can be is marvelous.

With an astonishing supporting cast, most specifically Duvall who bumbles around as opposing council but is sharp as a tack and as wily as a fox, it's an overall enjoyable ride.

My only warning to you is this. As a fellow parent, and I'm sure you are, some of the scenes are terribly gut-wrenching. I cried buckets in some areas and was overwhelmed with compassion for the suffering of these people. After all, they were real. And so were those children.

There but for the grace of God go us all.

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