The legal profession is guilty in 'Class Action'

Lou Cedrone

March 15, 1991|By Lou Cedrone

''Class Action'' is a classy movie, a facile mixture of domestic and courtroom drama. It should take its place on the same shelf that holds films like ''The Verdict.''

Gene Hackman and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio star as father and daughter. He is getting up there in years, which may be why he has been wenching a little less than he did in his earlier years.

His wife has forgiven him. She knew about the philandering, but she chose to stay, see the marriage through, and she isn't sorry she has done so.

Their daughter, however, has been less forgiving. She won't let herself or her father forget, and when they take opposite sides in a courtroom drama, their personal animosities begin to surface.

She is defending the manufacturers of a car that was said to have had a faulty electrical system. People died horrible deaths when some of the cars burned.

The girl's father, meanwhile, is representing one of the litigants, a man who is now spending his time in a wheelchair.

''Class Action'' takes on the law profession with the gloves off. This is no episode of ''L.A. Law'' or ''Equal Justice.'' These are not people willing to bend the law a little in order to win a case. These are people willing to discredit, lie, obstruct and blackmail, all in the name of justice. ''Class Action'' does not present a rosy picture of the legal profession. It does not suggest that the profession includes an occasionally dishonest maverick. Instead, it suggests that the profession is lucky if it includes a thoroughly honest man.

For a while, the film, cautiously directed by Michael Apted, hints that the daughter may not be all that honest, either, but then she is in a bind. She is working for a firm that intends to conceal information, erase it from existence, but she can't let her father know this. Can she find a way to thwart her employers and still save her career? Can she, at the same time, reconcile with her father?

These are questions neatly handled by the film, one that never bogs. It opens today at local theaters. Colin Friels is the lawyer who sleeps with Connie (Mastrantonio) and may be willing to use her, dump her, do anything that will help him win a case.

Donald Moffat is the head of the law firm defending the automobile manufacturers. Larry Fishburne is another lawyer, a friend to the father.

Hackman is good, but then we've never known him to be less than that. Mastrantonio, easily one of the most beautiful women on the contemporary screen, is also an actress. She, Hackman and the others make ''Class Action'' the movie it is.


''Class Action'' *** Father and daughter lawyers find themselves on oppositsides of a case.

CAST: Gene Hackman, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Wally Fishburne, Colin Friels, Donald Moffat

DIRECTOR: Michael Apted

RATING: R (language)

) RUNNING TIME: 100 minutes

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