Devil’s Advocate – 4 out of 5
Every time our boss tells us we have to come in on Saturday or work an hour late during the week or speaks to us through the neighbors dog and orders us to torture the mailman, we instantly assume our boss is the devil. In 1997, it turns out that Neo had a boss that was literally the devil…and by literally, I mean literally in the fictional world the film Devil’s Advocate took place in, not literally as in Keanu Reeves was working for Beelzebub—never mind, I’m getting too in-depth over my figurative use of the word “literally.”
|Yep, he sure looks like the Devil.|
Keanu Reeves stars as Kevin Lomax, a great lawyer with an impeccable record (We get it, surfer dude Reeves as a lawyer is stretching the imagination. If only the F.B.I. paid him to go to law school…). Well, Lomax’s incredible string of victories in the courtroom gets the attention of a hotshot law firm in New York and the head of it all; John Milton (Al Pacino). Milton handsomely pays for Lomax’s services and brings him and his wife; Mary Ann (Charlize Theron), to the Big Apple and puts him on a big case of a wealthy contractor who’s accused of murdering his wife (Craig T. Nelson—Nelson plays the contractor, not the murdered wife). Lomax becomes engrossed in the case and impressing his new boss while Mary Ann starts to lose her mind, seeing things like little demons manifest in the faces of her new, upscale friends. Lomax's mother, in all her eyebrowless glory, tries to warn him about the dangers of his boss, however, soon, Lomax learns the horrifying truth…his boss is Satan himself and has orchestrated his career and now wants him to help bring about the end of the world. And you thought your boss was a dick for blocking Facebook.
|"Have you seen my eyebrows?"|
It’s been a few years since I’ve seen this movie—okay, more than a few years. In fact, I haven’t seen it since it came out in 1997. The things that stuck in my head was the unforgivable lack of “whoas” from Keanu, Al Pacino giving credence to the argument that he probably really is Lucifer and the film began my love-affair with Charlize Theron (a love-affair that continues to this day). The one thing I forgot about this movie was how awesome it was.
Sure we all rag on Keanu for being a California boy with a surfer accent and acting abilities that mirror that concept but, I won’t lie, I’m a fan of Keanu. Ever since I saw him as Ted “Theodore” Logan to when he showed me how easy it was to learn Kung-Fu, I’ve been a fan of the guy. So what if he’s not the most convincing actor to come in the business but at least he doesn’t stutter his way through his roles and his name isn’t Sam Worthington. I’m trying to say there’s worse out there than Keanu. In fact, I’ll go as far as saying I don’t think he’s as bad as people say he is.
|Hmmm, seems Bueller's principal decided to make a pact with the devil to try and |
catch Ferris skipping class. A little extreme but to each his own.
Keanu has his bad moments in this movie—cringe-worthy bad moments but he does his part adequately and he only gets better in his role as Lomax as the movie progresses. In fact, you can’t beat the scene where he finally puts all the pieces together and realizes that his boss is a supernatural fallen angel…and he puts that together despite the fact that Al Pacino is lacking in the pointy goatee and pitchfork department.
|That hat screams "devil."|
And that brings me to my next point…if there ever was a man that seemed born to play a role, it would have to be Patrick Stewart as Professor Xavier but a close second would be Al Pacino as Satan. The whole mythology of the fictional character we call the Devil is the fact he’s the greatest snake oil salesman to ever exist. The cliché is that the greatest trick he ever played was proving to the world he doesn’t exist…if that was true, why do I still have to hear how I’m going to Hell for being an atheist? If he is so convincing, why do these fire and brimestoners (stoners, ha!) keep talking about him? Apparently, Lucifer isn’t as good at convincing others he doesn’t exist as we’ve heard.
|Yeah, kinda devily there.|
However, Al Pacino really takes the reins of playing the Devil—and does so in a way that doesn’t have him whispering or talking like a Southern black man like he’s become so obsessed with doing lately. Pacino, who already looks like a demon without the use of make-up, is able to more than adequately convene he is some monster lurking in an alternate dimension of smoke and fire who is also an incredible fiddle player. He plays the ultimate conniving villain as he offers Lomax the world through luxury, wealth and women thanks to his slithering forked tongue. Pacino refrains from hitting the “Bwaa-haa-haa” route until the final moments of the film when it’s finally realized that this lawyer is actually the devil. A concept that, on paper, is painfully laughable—like the bad jokes of a million hack comedians from the 80s all simultaneously uttered the predictable punchline.
|Yep, totally looks like the Devil here.|
The biggest thing I remembered watching this movie was getting my first glimpse of Charlize Theron...and my world has never been the same. I had already gone through puberty when this movie came out but Charlize’s beauty and amazing talent made me go through it again…Keanu’s performance as Neo made me go through it a third time when the first Matrix film came out.
|Coach's serious face.|
My stalker-like infatuation with Charlize (or maybe Keanu—I’m all over the place in this review) aside, she really showed how talented she was in this film…and by talent, I don’t mean that we get to see her funzones exposed for all eyes to see (besides, she was all cut up and her character was just raped. Those who find that arousing are already on some sort of watchdog list.) Charlize’s performance in this movie reminded me very much of Mia Farrow’s performance in Rosemary’s Baby—except in this one, Charlize is playing the part of the paranoid Rosemary like she was on crack, alcohol and a chaser of meth. Normally such insane paranoia and psychotic behavior can make a performance come off hokey or something Nic Cage would bring to the table but Charlize’s breakdown from the supportive wife at the beginning of the film to her mouth-foaming madness brought on by a sexual assault from the Devil felt so natural that she was awesome to watch!
|Ever since the restraining order Charlize is always looking over her shoulder for me.|
The thing I found myself enjoying the most from Devil’s Advocate was the fact that by the time it fades to black and the list of names that few people besides those who were in the movie actually read (unless it’s of course to find out who played that one guy) starts to appear, the film feels entirely different from when it began. Director Taylor Hackford (Ray) did a great job of perfectly crafting this film to be a stand-out in the rare cases of genre-jumping films. It’s rare to see a film start out as a drama (a legal drama, in this case) and end with a religious horror film—and it’s even rarer to see it done well. Dark comedies aside, the only other film I can think of that has done a tremendous job of pulling a quick left turn on its story and venture into unexpected territory would be From Dusk Till Dawn. Granted, there was no mystery that the film would show us that Al Pacino was the owner of the Golden Fiddle (it’s right there in the film’s synopsis and was the movie’s main selling point) but the way the film makes its transition from one genre to the next was done almost seamlessly by Hackford and built so organically that by the time we are told the absolute truth and the suspicious of Lomax is confirmed to the point we suspected Pacino’s lower half to turn into that of a goat that it is barely noticed that the film is no longer what it started as.
|Shockingly, not devilish at all here.|
So maybe you’re boss is a totally dick-biter for asking you to wear pants at work and he makes you clean the microwave in the breakroom because your gas station burrito blew up when you set it in there for too long but at least he’s not