A Civil Action

Metascore
68

Generally favorable reviews - based on 26 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 16 out of 26
  2. Negative: 0 out of 26

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Critic Reviews

  1. Reviewed by: John Hartl
    60
    All the ingredients are here for both a smashing courtroom drama and a legitimate tearjerker, but the film ultimately doesn't have the technique or the heart to deliver either.
  2. A jaundiced view of litigation, however authentic, is not necessarily the stuff of great drama, even of the legal-thriller variety, which by definition is confined to a claustrophobic courtroom.
  3. 60
    As a primer on the arcana surrounding the profession of personal injury lawyer (more familiarly known as ambulance chaser), A Civil Action is deeply, and even passionately, informative. As a drama and character study, though, it mostly misses the mark.
  4. 60
    Millions of people read Harr's gripping bestseller, but Steven Zaillian may be the only one who didn't understand it.
  5. 60
    Takes an unexpected turn towards originality where every other "David vs. Goliath-courtroom drama" only strives.
  6. 60
    That the story is true (and based on an expertly written book by Jonathan Harr) doesn't make A Civil Action any more satisfying dramatically -- there's a streak of obviousness in the moral melodrama that dampens one's interest.
  7. Starts out well, but it turns into an almost perversely undramatic legal thriller.
  8. 50
    A slick, shameless job that takes way too long to make its point.
  9. Courtroom dramas that favor the courtroom over the drama are always in danger of eye-glazing dullness.
  10. A multifaceted misfire from writer-director Steven Zaillian.
User Score
8.7

Universal acclaim- based on 38 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 6 out of 7
  2. Negative: 0 out of 7
  1. May 3, 2016
    7
    One of John Travolta's last films worth loving before the dreadful Battlefield Earth came and ruined the poor guy's career. I bet he's doingOne of John Travolta's last films worth loving before the dreadful Battlefield Earth came and ruined the poor guy's career. I bet he's doing alright by now. Full Review »
  2. May 7, 2013
    4
    It's a good movie and I went back-and-forth between giving this a 7 or 8, but ultimately chose an 8. Travolta is good in the lead role andIt's a good movie and I went back-and-forth between giving this a 7 or 8, but ultimately chose an 8. Travolta is good in the lead role and Macy is great in his supporting role as well. Being that the movie is based on a true story, the empathy you feel for the plaintiffs is certainly more powerful and I think that really helps the film along. Robert Duvall was also great in his role as the defense attorney. Full Review »
  3. Nov 18, 2012
    7
    A Civil Action proves to be a solid legal drama, and that's mostly thanks to its stellar characters, who are played with quiet control by someA Civil Action proves to be a solid legal drama, and that's mostly thanks to its stellar characters, who are played with quiet control by some talented actors. Full Review »