Civil Action, A

MPAA Rating: PG-13

Entertainment: +3

Content: -1/2

This riveting inside look at a small law firm taking on a huge corporate conglomerate in a civil lawsuit stars John Travolta as Jan Schlictmann. He is a flamboyant Boston attorney known for winning big settlements in personal injury cases before a trial ever gets underway. When first approached by a single mother (Kathleen Quinlan) whose son has recently died from leukemia in a small Massachusetts town, Jan has no interest. At least 12 local children have come down with the deadly disease. The water supply poisoned by a nearby tannery's industrial waste is suspected to be the cause. Later, Jan and his partners discover the parent company of the tannery is Beatrice Foods, and their greed kicks in. However, they underestimate that defendant's low-keyed but brilliant and cunning attorney, Jerome Facher (Robert Duvall). Facher is a distinguished Harvard law professor who can strip his adversaries of all dignity with a few scathing remarks. The cast of this brilliantly acted drama, based on a true story in the 1980s, includes Tony Shalhoub and William H. Macy as Jan's partners and John Lithgow as the presiding judge. A CIVIL ACTION will mesmerize adults and older teenagers.

This film has an abundance of thought-provoking messages about greed, loyalty and justice. The transformation of Jan Schlictmann from a greedy personal injury lawyer into a selfless, determined advocate for justice is particularly uplifting. His tenaciousness commands his partners' loyalty as they see all their worldly possessions sold to finance the investigation required to prove their case. A CIVIL ACTION also focuses on corporate America's hesitancy to recognize and take responsibility for their destructive methods of industrial waste disposal. Jan has to lose everything before he can accomplish anything meaningful in his life. Instead of indulging in self-pity or giving up, he keeps on long after the case is over. There is no sex, nudity or sexually suggestive content. One incident of teenagers throwing explosive material into a polluted stream results in an explosion and fire, but there are no injuries. Based on three f-words and three regular profanities, a slightly negative acceptable rating is required. But without these totally gratuitous offensive words, A CIVIL ACTION could be one of our top picks for adult viewing.

Preview Reviewer: Mary Draughon
Buena Vista (Touchstone Pictures), 500 South Buena Vista St., Burbank, CA 91521

The following categories contain objective listings of film content which contribute to the subjective numeric Content ratings posted to the left and on the Home page.

Crude Language: Once Mild

Obscene Language: Few (3) times (all f words)

Profanity: Few (3) times Regular (J)

Violence: Few times Moderate (attorney loses temper and breaks furniture; teenagers throw explosive material in ditch, causing fire but no injuries)

Sex: None

Nudity: None

Sexual Dialogue/Gesture: None

Drugs: None

Other: Messages about greed, loyalty and justice; importance of protecting environment

Running Time: 118 minutes
Intended Audience: Adults and older teenagers

Click HERE for a PRINTER-FRIENDLY version of this review.