"The societal disease of our time," Norman Lear has observed, "is America's obsession with short-term success, its fixation with the proverbial bottom line." This obsession comes across loud and clear in Class Action (Twentieth Century Fox).
Jedediah Tucker Ward (Gene Hackman), a San Francisco civil liberties lawyer, sees himself as the defender of people who have been abused by corporations and the state. When he takes on an automotive giant charged with criminal negligence in the maiming of his client and the death of the man's family, Ward's legal opponent is his own daughter Margaret (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio). She resents his shabby treatment of her mother through several affairs; she finds his grandstanding as a morally virtuous advocate of the underdog to be hypocritical. As the class action suit proceeds, the dramatic fireworks between father and daughter explode both in and outside the courtoom.
Director Michael Apted draws out exceptional performances from Hackman and Mastrantonio as these two strong-willed and stubborn individuals tear each other apart. The turning point in Class Action comes when Margaret realizes that her superior and the head of this sleek and successful law firm are involved in a cover-up. With pinpoint accuracy, the film reveals the unethical practices of these attorneys whose fixation on the bottom line has led them to break the law. In the end, Margaret's sense of justice leads her to do the right thing and to reconcile herself with her father. Class Action salutes ethical probity and exposes the societal disease of our time value-free success.