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A Civil Action (1998)
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Review Date: January 12, 1999
Director: Steve Zaillian
Writer: Steve Zaillian
Producers: R. Pfeffer, R. Redford, S. Rudin
Actors:
John Travolta
Robert Duvall
William H. Macy
Plot:
Typical shark-like lawyer with no conscience takes on a case featuring the suspiciously similar deaths of eight children in a small town. The parents believe that a local plant had contaminated the water supply, ultimately killing their kids. The lawyer fights two multinationals in court, but runs out of money nearing the end of the trial. Luckily for him, he's able to replace it with a newly developed sense of morals.
Critique:
Interesting yet unexciting court-battle drama features Travolta in prime form as John Travolta, Duvall in one of his better supporting roles, and an unsatisfying ending which leaves you dispassionately shrugging your shoulders at best. This movie is a highbrow affair for people who 1) enjoy lawyer movies 2) don't require any action in their films and 3) don't mind a "realistic" ending and appreciate good actors. I personally found it to be quite humdrum, and even a little boring at times. Kinda had me wishing for a fistfight or something, one which, unfortunately for me, never materialized.

The plot is well developed, as is the execution of the film, but the missing link seemed to be the emotional attachment to the film or any of its characters. This seemed to be non-existent for me. Travolta's cold performance may have been the reason. Or maybe the lack of tension or real suspense. Not sure. All's I know is that the film had a superb idiosyncratic performance by Bobby Duvall, some interesting law factoids, and enough stars to agreeably allow me to weather its two-hour runtime, all without wowing me over.

All in all, a mediocre fabrication of law-cinema, offering some points of interest, no real action, and a weak ending, which applauds the hard work and genuine nature of some lawyers out there, while belaboring a few of the justice system's systemic imperfections. No need to see it on the big screen. Catch it on video, if interested.
(c) 2016 Berge Garabedian
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