Friday, July 10, 2015

The Devil's Advocate

Movie Name: The Devil's Advocate
Year of Release: 1997
Director: Taylor Hackford
Stars: Keanu Reevers, Al Pacino, Charlize Theron, Jeffrey Jones, Judith Ivey, Connie Nielsen, Craig T. Nelson, Tamara Tunie, Debra Monk, Laura Harrington
Genre: Drama, Mystery, Thriller
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 6

Director Taylor Hackford has had a diversified career - mostly well known for his 80s hits, "An Officer and a Gentleman" and "Against All Odds", in the 90s he wasn't as prolific but still managed to direct two interesting films, "Dolores Claiborne" (a Stephen King adaptation) and "The Devil's Advocate", one of his biggest hits. "The Devil's Advocate" follows the story of small town lawyer Kevin Lomax, a young and overly ambitious professional, with shaky morals, who gets an offer from a big law firm in New York, headed by the charismatic and ruthless John Milton. Kevin's wife Mary Ann, upon moving to NY starts witnessing strange visions, that increase her nervousness about the new city and in particular about the new employer. Kevin gets progressively detached from her, and even a visit and warning from his mother, do nothing to deter him from his course. It's only when he experiences a dramatic event, that he suddenly realizes the truth surrounding Milton's  strange behavior.
"The Devil's Advocate" is a film that lives primarily from the suggestion of a hidden menace that progressively starts building up as the narrative unfolds. The director smartly hints at this menace through the impact that it produces in the supporting characters, which turn out to carry most of the dramatic impact, in particular Charlize Theron's Mary Ann. Her character ends up being the most memorable, since it's the one the audience empathizes with, due to odd occurrences and also due to the superb work from the actress (this was her first big role). Taylor Hackford for the most part builds a film that is simultaneously operatic and grandiose, but also with hints of social critique, something that doesn't totally mix adequately, mostly due to the concept of the screenplay itself (which is under all the gloss, a pulpy horror film). The film doesn't take itself too seriously, and boasts another bombastic performance from the great Al Pacino (the performance itself almost casts a shadow over the entire film, which sometimes occurs when the actor overacts). It's an entertaining film, worth revisiting with low expectations.