In this film, based on a very fine book about real events in the Boston area, we have a rather rare example of a lawyer trying so hard he defeats his own cause. Yet at the end he may have brought about a greater social good. Jan Schlictman (played with smarmy aplomb by John Travolta) is a seasoned plaintiff's lawyer in personal injury cases who knows all the tricks, both in pre-trial negotiation and before a jury. He is persuaded by an associate to look into a claim by a small community that its water has been poisoned by industrial waste resulting in the deaths of at least eight children from leukemia and other ailments.
The case captures his attention and before long the entire resources of his four-partner firm are concentrated on it. They are up against a local tannery owner and two huge corporations, Beatrice and W&R Grace. Beatrice is represented by Faucher (a stand-out performance from Robert Duvall) a crusty veteran of 45 years litigation (and Harvard Law School lecturer).
- John Travolta - Jan Schlichtmann
- Robert Duvall - Jerome Facher
- Tony Shalhoub - Kevin Conway
- William H. Macy - James Gordon
- Zeljko Ivanek - Bill Crowley
- Bruce Norris - William Cheeseman
- John Lithgow - Judge Walter J. Skinner
- Kathleen Quinlan - Anne Anderson
- James Gandolfini - Al Love
- Stephen Fry - Pinder