In 2000, Erin Brockovich amazed audiences, but a few years earlier John Travolta starred in a movie called A Civil Action that has a similar theme and is equally compelling.
Take out eighty percent of the comedy from Erin Brockovich, and the bust line, and you get A Civil Action, which is a much darker but still extremely interesting real-life story about a lawyer who took on a large company that dumped chemicals into a river, causing several children to die.
One thing that I like about A Civil Action is the way it presents itself realistically. The way events come and go and how everything ends up seems like this movie depicted the real events pretty well, if not really well. Sure, the character interactions, I'm sure, are a little dramatized, but the actual turn of events do not seem very stereotypical of Hollywood.
John Travolta, Robert Duvall, and William H. Macy star, and all three actors do good jobs. Travolta turns in one of his best performances ever; I'm surprised he didn't garner a nomination. Duvall, though not his best work, is an interesting character to watch; I don't think he once worries about losing hundreds of millions of dollars, despite having a lawsuit breathing down his neck. Macy has a smaller role but he's pretty funny, especially when the firm starts running out of money.
A Civil Action does a good job of keeping the audience entertained, mainly with its main theme. Every once in a while it sidesteps to show a lighter side of the story, giving the audience a break from the quite serious allegations. My only complaint is that in the last ten minutes, after the ruling is declared, the movie goes on to explain and glorify Travolta's character, which seems a little off track. If the movie is about his character, then tell us from the beginning, but for the whole of the movie, I thought it was about a case, not a person.
I really do not have any complaints about A Civil Action except for the last ten minutes or so, which are over-glorifying and anti-climatic. However, if you liked Erin Brockovich, or you are in the mood for a serious lawsuit movie, A Civil Action is a good one to pick up at your local video store.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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