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Travolta plays Jan, a personal injury lawyer - the really blood-thirsty, leach-like, money hungry kind - until he takes the case of Ann Anderson (Kathleen Quinlan) and her group of parents who have lost children to leukemia or other unusual health problems. They blame the city's water supply, claiming it must have been contaminated with nasty chemicals from a nearby factory.
After learning that the factory is a very small part of a very large and very prosperous business empire, Jan sees the case as a potential gold mine. As the case progresses, he actually seems to start to care about his clients, although you can never be sure whether or not it's an act.
When you think about it, some of Travolta's co-stars in A Civil Action have better character development than he does. (William H. Macy, have you noticed, always seems to play the beaten-down, underdog roles. His desperate, close-to-broke lawyer character here reminds me of his Fargo role, in which he played a desperate, close-to-broke car salesman. Pick your pity angle.)
Supposedly, A Civil Action is based on a true story (screenwriters' definitions of "based" often tend to be a little different than you would think, so I don't know how true-to-life it is.) For the most part, this is a well-acted, interesting story, and certainly held my attention. Although I wasn't quite as impressed with A Civil Action as I was with some legal thrillers, such as The Rainmaker (the best legal thriller I ever saw on the silver screen), I still highly recommend it.