Urban Cinefile
"Ego you use for a whole lot of things in this business. You got to have it to protect yourself against all the people who're going to tell you that the job means dick. Yeah, I know the job means dick."  -Russell Crowe
 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Saturday February 1, 2020 

Printable page PRINTABLE PAGE



Kevin Lomax (Keanu Reeves) is a young defence attorney in Florida who has never lost a case. His skill in mesmerising the jury is unsurpassed, and comes to the notice of a powerful law firm in New York, run by John Milton (Al Pacino), who entices Lomax and his beautiful wife Mary Ann (Charlize Theron) to move there and work for them. But as Lomax tastes the power of being a wealthy New York attorney, something changes. Winning is no longer a goal - it becomes an obsession. He is totally immersed in his work, and ignores pleas from his wife, who is having frightening experiences. Lomax is also having disturbing flashes, but he dismisses them. His pursuit of legal success, sometimes in dangerous moral territory, eclipses his innate sense of justice, but Milton encourages him to ever greater heights, with rewards that are a hedonistís delight. As his wifeís health deteriorates, Lomax begins to see the connection between the evil around him and the evil within him Ė within each of us. Finally, Lomax makes him confront the issue head on.

"The Firm meets Witches of Eastwick, in this entertaining Good versus Evil, tinged with the supernatural. The well-written screenplay effectively puts Everyman (Keanu Reeves) in the way of temptation, offering him fame, power, money and sexual enticement. Reeves takes this role, and with a Ďless is moreí approach, creates a credible, ambitious man, whose very strength becomes his weakness, as his will to win becomes his obsession.

Forthright, complex, intelligent and readily engaging to empathise strengths and weaknesses, he is effectively counteracted by Al Pacino, stridently superb as the Satanic boss with the decadent, hell-inspired penthouse. Pacino revels in this devilish role, offering an extraordinarily entertaining performance.

While undoubtedly over-the-top at times, he is at his best: confident, seductive, manipulative with glistening undertones of sheer evil. Evil is not forced upon us, according to the script, but is a doorway which we must enter of our own free will.

Charlize Theron is most convincing as Mary Ann, the savvy wife who recognises the different shades of grey. Her transformation from a loving, supportive wife to a paranoid and fearful one is realistic and chilling.

The Devilís Advocate is a complex, superbly made film which shouldnít be taken too literally. The production design is inspired and at times melodramatic; you can even see Donald Trumpís Fifth Avenue lavish penthouse, which doubles as the home of real-estate developer Alexander Cullen. Get ready to jump in head first, and let your curiosity and senses wander into a mire of the ultimate temptations. Itís hell, but what a ride!"
Louise Keller

"For those of us fascinated by the metaphysical aspects of good and evil, The Devilís Advocate only gets going three quarters of the way in Ė but then itís a doozie. For those who crave naturalism and Keanu doing active, adventurous and sexy things, this will be a disappointment. For those who want cinematic artistry, soaring visual poetry, tangible human condition substance, this will be a disappointment. For those who enjoy excessive argument and philosophy about God and Satan, this will not be a disappointment. But you have to wait. You have to wade through the elaborate set up, the tantalising suggestive phase where we get close to the central characters.

I agree with everything Louise (above) and Todd (below) say; but I have to add my own sneaking admiration for Pacinoís big speech about Godís evil sense of humour and the absolute truth of his satanic statement that his favourite sin is vanity.

Oh yeah, and all this from producers Kopelson and Milchan, two of the toughest nosed Hollywood producers Iíve clapped eyes on. The irony and the surprise crunched under my seat.

The other thing I really liked in this visually seductive production is the fantasy brought to the story, the visual and digital effects, all of them done entirely for the benefit of the script, not for the ego of the FX designer. Creative and as important to the impact of the film as is the music. Itís not a wishy washy film, I guarantee."
Andrew L. Urban

"Hollywood can turn the simplest tales into the most excessive cinematic potboilers. Mostly, such films are misfires, but The Devilís Advocate, which could have been, is a pleasurable surprise. Under the assured direction of Taylor Hackford, this devilish legal drama is an irresistible entertainment, a completely over-the-top piece of ghoulish nonsense that drags the unexpected viewer in and keeps them there, without insulting oneís intelligence.

Keanu Reeves turns in a solid performance, easily his best, as the lawyer who learns a lesson or two in moral fair play, under the demonic guidance of Al Pacino, wonderfully hypnotic as the Father of all Evils.

But the best performance comes from the extraordinary Charlize Theron, who undergoes the biggest character transformation, and handles it superbly. This is an actress worth keeping an eye on. Satiric, darkly humorous and fascinating, Devilís Advocate is a provocative, deliriously exhilarating film that asks you to come along for a cinematic ride that rarely leaves you time to put on the brakes."
Paul Fischer

Email this article


CAST: Keanu Reeves, Al Pacino, Charlize Theron, Jeffrey Jones, Judith Ivey, Connie Neilsen, Craig T. Nelson, Tamara Tunie, Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Debra Monk, Vyto Ruginis, Laura Harrington, Pamela Gray, Heather Matarazzo

DIRECTOR: Taylor Hackford

PRODUCER: Arnold Kopelson, Anne Kopelson, Arnon Milchan

SCRIPT: Jonathan Lemkin, Tony Gilroy (based on the novel by Andrew Neiderman)

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Andrzej Bartkowiak

EDITOR: Mark Warner

MUSIC: James Newton Howard


RUNNING TIME: 144 minutes



© Urban Cinefile 1997 - 2020