Devil's Advocate (1997)
Pacino has a Devil of a Time
Freedom, baby... is never having to say you're sorry - John Milton
On face value "Devil's Advocate" looks like it's a moralistic character study of lawyers, portraying them as evil, unscrupulous people who will do what ever it takes to win a case whether they believe in who they are defending or not. But "Devil's Advocate" is so much more because whilst delivering this fascinating drama about lawyers it also has a strong touch of the super natural, a blast of horror, drama and a thrilling storyline which twists, turns and reveals itself as the story of enthusiastic young lawyer Kevin Lomax progresses.
After keeping his 100% record and winning a court case that seemed a lost cause young enthusiastic lawyer Kevin Lomax (Keanu Reeves - A Walk in the Clouds) is head hunted by a big city law firm. Dazzled by all the money and power that they throw at him, Kevin and his wife Mary Ann (Charlize Theron - That Thing You Do!) soon succumb to it all setting up in a swanky apartment owned by the law firm. But all is not as it seems as Kevin becomes more and more engrossed in the business and by his charismatic boss John Milton (Al Pacino - Carlito's Way), whilst Mary Ann's life spirals out of control into a state of hallucinations and depression.
Right from the opening scene where Kevin Lomax is in a moral quandary whether to do his job and convince the jury that the defendant he is working for is innocent of abusing a pupil or to go with his gut instincts and step away, ruining his perfect record in doing so sets the mark for the rest of the "Devil's Advocate". It delivers that moralistic element whilst also delivering the point that lawyers are the lowest of the low as Lomax verbally lays in to a young girl on the witness stand despite doubting the innocence of his client. This moralistic issue and basically lawyer bashing continues through out the "Devil's Advocate" as it paints this picture of lawyers often taking the immoral route because it's all about money, ego and winning.
But if that was all "Devil's Advocate" was about then it would be no more than another movie fuelled by courtroom theatrics. But all this moralistic lawyer bashing is part of a multi layered storyline with a super natural side as we discover the big boss of the New York law firm which wines and dines Lomax is in fact the Devil. It's cleverly done with scenes building up to insinuate the devilish comparability of John Milton, a clever choice of name coming from the author of "Paradise Lost". Of course with a supernatural side you also get horror and although "Devil's Advocate" is not a full out horror movie it doesn't pull any punches when the storyline leads its way to some shocking scenes. So shocking that the first time the horror side appears it takes you a back.
As such "Devil's Advocate" does have a few special effects some raw in your face, some more surreal such as what appears to be bodies inside bodies, all of which are quite impressive. In fact some of these special effects are so good that they look completely natural, believable in a strange sort of way. In one scene which features Keanu Reeves and Charlize Theron having sex, with every thrust Theron changes to another woman, then back again. It's a simple moment of clever editing but is both beautifully done and shows the way that their lives have changed since heading to New York.
That is another side of the movie, the deeper element which shows how having been dazzled by the big city law firm the lives of the Lomax's change with Kevin's head being turned by other things such as work and women whilst Mary Ann's life spirals out of control. It's an added element which makes it again more than just a movie which strives to bash lawyers and their immoral behaviour.
But it does have issues most notably some serious over acting with both Keanu Reeves and Charlize Theron being majorly guilty of this, especially in the earlier parts of the movie before the main storyline kicks in. When it does kick in both of their performances improve but there are still moments of over acting. Even the great Al Pacino sometimes comes across as over acting as he tries to deliver the slyness and charisma of John Milton. Maybe it was intentional over acting because the character of Milton is larger than life and there is a sense of the large theatrics about the whole movie but some of the subtleties of the character are lost as Pacino has devilish fun with it.
Whilst Keanu Reeves and Al Pacino are the central figures Charlize Theron has a sizable sub story herself as the wife and there are plenty of well known faces which crop up from Delroy Lindo, Jeffrey Jones and Craig T. Nelson all with their own sub stories to add to the whole intrigue of the movie.
What this all boils down to is that "Devil's Advocate" is a very impressive movie which although runs for an equally impressive 138 minutes doesn't feel anywhere near so long. At its heart it's a moralistic study of immoral lawyers but it is wrapped up in a super natural, horror thriller which keeps you entertained, engrossed and also at times shocked.
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