With Conrad L. Hall shooting it and James Horner (pre-Titanic and fame) scoring, Class Action is great looking and sounding. Apted’s composition is frequently excellent. But it’s a vehicle for Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio and it, rather unfortunately, eventually just works on that vehicle level. There’s no real surprises, no real content… just running time with good acting, directing and production values and nothing else. Class Action isn’t even an exciting courtroom drama. There are maybe three scenes in court. Most of the movie is Mastrantonio realizing she doesn’t want to be a heartless corporate lawyer and, given how evil her bosses act, it’s not a surprise.
There is one excellent underlying detail to the movie though–with Mastrantonio playing Gene Hackman’s daughter and Larry Fishburne playing his protégé, the film actually takes the time to acknowledge (but not explore, which is realistic but not necessarily the best move in such an anorexic story) their complicated relationship. The scenes with Mastrantonio and Fishburne are her best, mostly because her other relationships are generic. She’s mad at Dad, so those scenes have to play a certain way. The scenes with love interest Colin Friels are troublesome (as is Friels’s one note performance), because it’s unbelievable she’d ever be with him.
As for Hackman… he’s great in the scenes with Mastrantonio. Her worst and his best (she’s good throughout and excellent in parts, just not those). Even though Hall’s lighting is most loving for Mastrantonio (her skin glows), he’s very soft on Hackman too. The other Hackman scenes are somewhat standard Hackman material, but in the scenes with Mastrantonio, he’s exercising some of his other acting muscles.
The supporting cast–besides Jonathan Silverman (his performance in this one is indistinguishable from, say, Weekend at Bernie’s)–is solid, Jan Rubes, Fred Dalton Thompson and Matt Clark being the standouts. And Fishburne, of course.
Class Action is fine, but had it definitely gone either way–legal drama, family drama–it would have been in better shape. But for a movie written by a couple “Growing Pains” writers, it’s pretty good.
Directed by Michael Apted; written by Carolyn Shelby, Christopher Ames and Samantha Shad; director of photography, Conrad L. Hall; edited by Ian Crafford; music by James Horner; production designer, Todd Hallowell; produced by Ted Field, Scott Kroopf and Robert W. Cort; released by 20th Century Fox.
Starring Gene Hackman (Jedediah Tucker Ward), Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio (Maggie Ward), Colin Friels (Michael Grazier), Joanna Merlin (Estelle Ward), Laurence Fishburne (Nick Holbrook), Donald Moffat (Fred Quinn), Jan Rubes (Alexander Pavel), Matt Clark (Judge R. Symes), Fred Dalton Thompson (Dr. George Getchell), Jonathan Silverman (Brian), Joan McMurtrey (Ann) and Anne Ramsay (Deborah).