The lawsuit reads like the voiceover from one of Michael Moore's provocative documentaries. "This case is about classic Hollywood accounting tricks and financial deception," it begins.
The suit goes on to describe, in 17 pages, the various methods by which Moore believes he was swindled out of $2.7m (£1.7m) in profits from the film Fahrenheit 9/11. The guilty party, he claims, was his long-standing financial backer, Harvey Weinstein.
Moore alleges Weinstein, one of the biggest power brokers in independent film, hid profits from the 2004 movie, which earned $222m at the box office.
The legal action, launched in Los Angeles Superior Court on Monday, explains how vast amounts of money soured the once-fruitful relationship of two industry heavyweights. It comes at an inconvenient time for Weinstein, who is mounting an extended charm offensive to help the Oscar campaign of his film, The King's Speech. Moore's suit claims that he audited Fahrenheit 9/11 in 2008, and "discovered substantial irregularities in the accounting" which resulted in a "gross underpayment" to him. Moore says Weinstein improperly deducted millions of dollars in expenses before calculating the film's overall profit, which they had agreed to split 50-50.
Disputed sums billed to their joint venture cover everything from tax bills to advertising commissions to the "grossly excessive and unreasonable" cost of hiring a private jet to fly Weinstein and an assistant to Europe.
Bert Fields, the lawyer who is representing Weinstein, said Moore already made $19.8m in personal profit from the film and his claims are "just designed for the media and are utter rubbish".