The Devil’s Advocate
- Keanu Reeves as Kevin Lomax
- Al Pacino as John Milton
- Charlize Theron as Mary Ann Lomax
- Jeffrey Jones as Eddie Barzoon
- Judith Ivey as Alice Lomax
- Connie Nielsen as Christabella
The Devil’s Advocate may have its fair share of flaws, but thankfully this doesn’t distract from the creepy impact of the film that for the most part successfully criss-crosses genres and features very credible performances from the cast.
Kevin Lomax is a young hotshot lawyer in Florida who has never lost a case that he took. It is precisely this knack for succession that puts him on the radar for a law company in New York, headed by the strange but very charismatic John Milton. Kevin’s God-fearing mother warns him of dangers but he refuses to listen, dismissing what she says as delusions because of her faith. Soon enough, Kevin has moved from Florida to New York and accepted the job in the prestigious law firm, bringing his beautiful wife Mary Ann with him and into a luxurious and spacious apartment. Under the tutelage of Milton, who always seems to be lurking around and is morally corrupt but is very seductive in his offers of luxury and power, what Kevin has left of a conscience is slowly eroded away as his own ambitions and vanity begin to cloud his judgement and he has no qualms about defending the guilty. Meanwhile, a neglected Mary Ann begins to feel increasingly alienated and sees gruesome visions of demons, that lead to her mind disintegrating with fright and uncertainty. As the high-profile cases role in and Mary Ann’s mental capacities crumble alarmingly, Kevin, though blinded by his skyrocketing career, slowly unearths the fact that his superior Milton is somehow not of this world and a deep force of disturbing darkness who has his own devious plans for the young lawyer.
The direction is very well handled by Taylor Hackford, who really knows how to invest a movie with a creeping sense of mystery without overdoing it. Although there is a feeling that everything promised to Kevin is a little too good to be true, many things come as a surprise thanks to the skillful direction of Hackford. I admire the way The Devil’s Advocate builds up slowly and then quickens as the darkness becomes more and more apparent. The exploration of themes of vanity, greed and power were superbly observed with little nods to the damaging and very horrifying results of them as witnessed here in the style of a morality play. Now The Devil’s Advocate isn’t a perfect film and it does have flaws. The chief one being that while the melding of genres between supernatural horror/thriller and courtroom can be well done, the horror aspect, complete with gruesome special effects, dwarfs the legal part of it. That isn’t to say that the courtroom scenes aren’t good, it’s that the supernatural horror/thriller elements emerge on a greater level during the course of the movie. The other flaw is the length of the film, which could have benefited from a few cuts as it runs for too long in the end. Besides these flaws, The Devil’s Advocate is still very entertaining to watch and downright scary in parts with disturbing visuals and demonic ideas. A choral based score that starts out with a veneer of lush enticement soon gives way to something much more frightening, mirroring Kevin’s rise to power and the strange vents that he seems oblivious too as they close in.
Keanu Reeves is not usually my favourite actor(if I’m honest I find him to be a bit wooden in delivery) but he is ideal casting for the role of ambitious Kevin, who is seduced by a world of power that it is almost too late for him to see the horrific darkness that lies underneath everything that he sees. Then we have Al Pacino, full of fire and untamed energy burning across the screen as the Devil, whose seductive and hypnotic presence causes ruin everywhere he looks. Pacino gives the part his all and it really shows in his intense delivery during some electrifying scenes. But I must say the most effective performance in The Devil’s Advocate for me was that of Charlize Theron. Burrowing into the emotional turmoil of Mary Ann as she is neglected and lonely, Theron displays the shocking mental evaporation of her as visions swirl around her and the once bright woman who was full of life is left in unchangeable despair and torture. Jeffrey Jones is well used as a jealous co-worker of Kevin’s who suspects murky machinations behind the scenes, while Judith Ivey exudes a sage presence as Kevin’s religious mother who warns him of the depravity that will await him but to no avail. A sizzling Connie Nielsen slinks across the screen as a seductive worker in league with Milton on his scheme.
It could have done with being a bit tighter in terms of running time and not been as overly ambitious, but for what its worth The Devil’s Advocate sticks in the memory thanks to mysterious and occasionally horrifying elements and cast.