Wednesday, 25 June 2014

The Devil's Advocate - film review

The Devil's Advocate is a film dating from 1997, but I've only just caught up with it. It's odd that it's taken me so long to do so, given not only that it's a dark thriller with a fantastic cast, including Al Pacino, Charlize Theron and Keanu Reeves, but also features one of my favourite subjects - a dodgy law firm. We've had stories about lawyers in league with the Mafia. This one, based on a novel by Andrew Neiderman, a prolific specialist in the supernatural, goes much further....

Reeves plays Lomax, a clean-cut Florida lawyer with a highly religious mother and a beautiful wife, played by Theron. Lomax never loses a case, which seems suspicious in itself, and he soon finds himself lured to New York by the charming but malevolent John Milton (Pacino) whose law firm boasts a dazzling international client list. The lure of the money proves irresistible, but inevitably there is a price to be paid. In particular, Reeves finds himself tempted by a glamorous colleague (played by Connie Nielsen) while Theron begins a descent into hallucinatory paranoia.

Taylor Hackford, the director, faced a tricky task with this movie. A large part of the storyline is set in the courtroom,and although I'd be the first to admit that legal life can have its surreal side, this relatively realistic type of material could easily jar with some of the melodrama. It would be easy to say that The Devil's Advocate is hokum, but if so, it's hokum of a superior kind, because Hackford manages to keep the audience engaged from the start to the pleasing twist at the end.

It helps to have the likes of Pacino, Reeves and Theron on board. I thought Theron in particular handled the development of her character very well indeed. The story may be Grand Guignol, but this was acting of a very high standard. Pacino really enjoys himself as the bad guy, and (by and large) resists the temptation to ham it up too much. All in all, a good watch. And a reminder, if anyone needed one, that you really need to keep your eye on some members of the legal profession...


3 comments:

Margot Kinberg said...

Martin - I too was very impressed with Pacino in this role. I agree that there are parts of it that are a little 'over the top,' but it is enjoyable and there are some parts that are quite compelling.

John said...

There's a scene in an elevator in this movie that was so bizarre it made me laugh instead of scaring me. I love over-the-top in movies of this type. Al Pacino, once the paragon of realistic acting, is a born ha. He only gets more grotesque as a character actor (just like Jack Nicholson) the older he gets. Seen his Shylock? You'd think you'd traveled back to the 1940s!

Martin Edwards said...

Margot, and John, it's always good to hear from you. I like the comparison with Nicholson, another unforgettable actor.