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The Devil's Advocate

movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4

All-Reviews.com Movie Review: The Devil's Advocate

Starring: Keanu Reeves, Al Pacino
Director: Taylor Hackford
Rated: R
RunTime: 144 Minutes
Release Date: October 1997
Genres: Horror, Suspense, Thriller


*Also starring: Charlize Theron, Jeffrey Jones, Judith Ivey, Craig T. Nelson, Tamara Tunie, Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Debra Monk, Vyto Ruginis



Review by AlexI
3½ stars out of 4

"..Here for his envy, will not drive us hence: Here we may reign secure, and in my choice To reign is worth ambition through in Hell: Better to reign in Hell, then serve in Heaven!.." - John Milton

Despite of its misleading title, "The Devil's Advocate" is a shocking and inspiring thriller, visually beautiful as well as thought provoking. The Devil has been portrayed thousands of times throughout the years. Every year Hollywood produces countless movies about the Evil One. Yet, there has not been a single film or book (besides "Rosemary's baby" ) that was good enough to be called interesting. Most of what we see about the subject is either regular horror films, that despite of their primitive premiss take themselves too seriously, or we watch action films of supernatural forces where the Devil is nothing more than a foul beast. In either case 90% of these movies are pure cliches - dumb and predictable. When I went out to see "The Devil's Advocate" I was expecting one of the two "genres" mentioned above. I got neither. What I saw was a fabulous, intelligent and amazing film, which engages both heart and mind. The first surprise was the cast, which can boast of Keanue Reeves, Charlize Therone and Al Pacino. Only the fact that some of the most famous, and not to mention, talented actors of our time agreed to star in this film immediately draws your attention. Throughout the picture, you start realizing the unusual complexity of the story and script.

Kevin Lomax (Reeves) is a success in the courtroom and out of it. He's a young Florida defense attorney who has never lost a case. No matter how repugnant the crime, no matter how guilty the defendant, Kevin Lomax has the power to mesmerize the jury into accepting his arguments, buying into his logic, being convinced by his charisma; and freeing his clients. Soon after he has successfully won the case, where he defended an obviously guilty child molester, Lomax is invited to New York, where a powerful law firm has become aware of the Florida hotshot's acquittal record. Here he meets John Milton (Al Pacino), the founder and head of "Milton, Chadewick, Waters", a mysterious and powerful law firm with contacts and clients all over the world. It is this charismatic and charming man that opens the door to a completely different world; a world of luxury and pleasure, wealth and power; a world of endless possibilities. This is heaven on earth. But as Lomax tastes the power of being a wealthy New York attorney, something in him changes. Winning is no longer just a goal; it becomes an obsession. Soon he starts to realize that things are not what they seem to be; and all the things he once had and cared about -a happy marriage with Mary Ann (CHARLIZE THERON), his relationship with his mother, all his happiness - everything disappear amidst the sparkling illusion of paradise. He suddenly realizes that Heaven and Hell can coexist..at the same place and at the same time.

I do not intend to reveal anything else, since all of the interesting surprises will be presented in the intense and inspiring climax. 'The Devil's Advocate' is a story about some characteristically American values: ambition, drive, materialism. Going after success and its trappings is a classic American male behavior, and Kevin Lomax shows us what can happen when that behavior gets out of hand. Winning has become such a core value in our culture that we never stop to consider the consequences of our own actions. This is a story about a man that has always been a winner and was rewarded for it with the kind of things that winning brings - wealth and power. At the end he realizes that winning may not always be the best thing, but then it is too late. The characters in this film are both complex and real, partly because of the good writing, partly because of some wonderful performances by every actor. This is probably Reeves' best performance. He manages to create a believable character - a kind of example, a role model for the American way of life. Kevin's wife, Mary Ann is most likely the hardest character to play, since she goes through a complex and difficult emotional evolution. From being strong, devoted and ambitious (a female copy of her husband) to vulnerable, hurt and on the verge of madness. Charlize Theron gracefully floats into this character. The most interesting of performances and characters is John Milton - the essence of Kevin Lomax's temptation. The invitation by a modern-day Satan to enter a world, represented by the excess of our most worldly pleasures. Al Pacino is nothing less than astonishing, an award worthy performance that is as good as anything seen this year. His power and presence is felt everywhere throughout the film, even where he is not present. This eerie and unsettling feeling is one of the elements that help creating the movie's intense and frightening atmosphere. At the same time he provides the most entertaining moments and colorful quotes. I can't imagine an audience not smiling when he screams out: "I am a humanist!" . And the fact that Milton's law firm is involved in all the dirty business, from drugs and money laundering to murder, doesn't prevent the Devil to call himself John Milton, who is the author of the most brilliant epic about Christianity. This is entertaining by itself.

As I have said previously, the major difference from the other films with diabolical themes, is the complexity of the story. The Devil is not shown as a ugly monster with red eyes. And the purpose of his existence is not to posses innocent children. One of the many interesting things in this film is the fact that the Devil is never really pulling the strings by himself -- he's giving people their choice, their free will to decide -- a demon whose world is our own, with all its mundane events. He appears in human form and presents human choices, and his greatest lure is what we have in common with him: our greed, ego, jealousy, competitiveness, lust, dishonesty. Another thing is that the director is very careful to not let the monster out of the box, so to speak, by using any images that are obvious. Things appear and disappear in a moment; sometimes they seem real and sometimes they seem like a bad dream, so that when the events in the story actually do emerge into reality, the Lomaxes don't know what's real and what isn't anymore. The third element is the fabulous production design, grand art direction and rich cinematography. These elements help creating a strange and surreal world - heaven and hell almost floating into each other. Hell is here not a blackness, haunted by ghosts and monsters, but the rarified world of New York's ultra-wealthy and privileged society.

After a thought provoking finale, I sat amazed by what I have seen. If you are looking for entertainment, action and ugly monsters, this is not the right answer for you, but if you are interested in a more serious and inspiring film experience, this is a spectacular and meaningful movie that is well worth your money and time.

"..There is no greater calamity than lavish desires. There is no greater guilt than discontentment. And there is no greater disaster than greed.." - Lao-Tzu

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