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The Devil's Advocate

movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: The Devil's Advocate

Starring: Keanu Reeves, Al Pacino
Director: Taylor Hackford
Rated: R
RunTime: 144 Minutes
Release Date: October 1997
Genres: Horror, Suspense, Thriller

*Also starring: Charlize Theron, Jeffrey Jones, Judith Ivey, Craig T. Nelson, Tamara Tunie, Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Debra Monk, Vyto Ruginis

Review by David Wilcock
1 star out of 4

You can see straight away why Pacino decided to play the role of John Milton in this below average shocker. That's because, of course, he gets to play Satan himself, complete with rantings, sticking out of tongue and menacing eyes. Sadly, although Pacino seems to be having a good time with this film (probably because he is getting paid to shout and scream), there is hardly any entertainment here for the audience at all.

Reeves plays hotshot Florida lawyer Kevin Lomax, who has never lost a case. After successfully defending a school teacher accused of sexually abusing a schoolgirl, he is approached by an employee of Milton law firm, who offer Lomax a job. Lomax accepts, unaware that his boss, John Milton, is the Devil, played well, if a bit over the top, by Pacino. Kevin's wife Mary Ann (Theron) reliases that Milton is the devil long before Kevin does, but she slowly goes crazy and then dies. It's then up to Kevin to confront Milton in a showdown complete with shouting and over the top special effects.

The entire film is directed in a slapdash fashion by Hackford, with many scenes looking messy, and badly planned and directed. The acting, apart from Pacino, isn't too good either. Reeves is rubbish, with his Florida accent disappearing and reappearing every so often. Sometimes, he even seems to be mumbling his lines, with the audience unable to work out what he is saying. And his face can't show emotion, so we never really know what he's thinking or feeling. Finally, all his lines are said in the same tone of voice, much like David Duchovney of X-Files fame. Theron is marginally better, but she dosen't really have to do much in the film, apart from act mad, and cry a little. In fact, she is pretty much wasted in the film, serving no real purpose whatsoever.

It's up to Pacino, then, to carry the film, and when he's on screen, the film picks up. He seems to be having such a good time, the audience starts to enjoy themselves aswell. Sadly, as soon as he's off the screen, it's back to watching Reeves, who is boring, unintresting, and totally inferior to Pacino. Also, the supporting cast are unremarkable, with average performances from Jeffrey Jones (Beetlejuice, 1988) and Craig T. Nelson (Poltergeist, 1982). Even the god worshipping, religous character (in this case Kevin's mother), usually hillarous in horror movies, is dully played by Judith Ivey.

Another problem with the film is that it can't make out what genre it wants to be. The title, The Devils Advocate, immediatly conjures up images of a horror movie. But the bulk of the film is based on a court case, so The Devils Advocate is one of the wierdist mish-mash of genres ever, the courtroom-horror. The problem, though, is that the courtroom sequences are basic, and the horror just isn't scary. The film should of made it's mind on what genre it was going to be, and stuck to it.

Apart from Pacino's performance, there is one other thing that saves the film from getting a one star rating. And it is, amazingly, the special effects. Usually, effects make a film worse, but here, they actually make the film better. They are subtle, actually quite disturbing, and great fun. Sadly, there is some effect overkill during the last twenty minutes, but they are used throughout the rest of the film very well.

The Devils Advocate, then, is not scary, not exciting, and generally just not very good. As a vehicle for Pacino, it's perfect. As an entertaining horror movie, or even courtroom drama, it falls flat on it's face, due to poor scripting and underwritten, and underplayed, characters (apart from Milton, of course). The Devils Advocate, then, is hugely dissapoiting.

Copyright 1997 David Wilcock

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