Flashback Friday: The Devil’s Advocate (1997) Review
“Playing the devil’s advocate” means to express a contentious opinion in order to provoke debate or test the strength of the opposing arguments. This has been something happening for centuries. It happens in courtrooms, interviews, debates, etc. all across the board. Given this new age of political correctness and social justice reform, it has been occurring more frequently. One of the best examples of this is in the movie whose title refers to this very phrase: The Devil’s Advocate.
The film centers around Kevin Lomax (Keanu Reeves), a small-town man from Gainesville, Florida who gets a job offer from John Milton (Al Pacino), the owner of the biggest law firm in New York. After he wins a very disturbing case, Lomax and his wife Mary-Ann Lomax (Charlize Theron) move to New York. Things start off wonderful then slowly but surely things go downhill. Everything isn’t what it seems and the more the Lomax family tries to get settled into their new lifestyle the more things seem strange. Most of all, it turns out that John is none other than Satan himself. Ultimately Kevin has to make a decision that could decide the fate of the world… Or does he?
Director Taylor Hackford definitely got the best out of these actors in this film. Each actor poured passion into their character, and it was absolutely amazing. Writers Johnathan Lemkin and Tony Gilroy delivered an incredible screenplay filled with great plays on religion. The amount of scripture spilled into this movie is absolutely incredible. Also, knowing that Satan was an angel, how he plays with scripture throughout The Devil’s Advocate is incredible. We have this image of the Devil in our heads as Baphomet when in reality he was one of the most beautiful angels in Heaven.
This was incredibly thought out and well put together from the production team to the script and direction. The camera work by Andrzej Bartkowiak is also absolutely amazing. The camera creates an uneasy atmosphere for the viewer that just gives you a wild sensation of not knowing how to react. This makes even more sense given that what people know about Satan can skew how we see various things in the movie. Honestly, it’s incredible and I wish I would’ve experienced this in a theater.
On top of that, the filmmakers get top-tier performances out of Theron, Reeves, and Pacino. Theron as Mary-Ann was absolutely incredible. Watching somebody slowly lose their mind was disturbing, especially as great as she pulled it off. A religious southern woman being corrupted by Satan isn’t something that’s supposed to be easy to watch though. Reeves’s character is interesting and very complex, but his acting is on another level. Even in his oblivion, he still managed to seem like he couldn’t understand what was happening.
As for Pacino, he plays an incredible Devil. The amount of push you have to give for this portrayal to be so accurate is crazy. We’ve seen plenty of actors play the Devil in many forms. However, none of them comes anywhere near Pacino’s portrayal. He honestly makes you think he is the Devil. Again, camera angles are everything in this film but add in the makeup and you’ve got a great Devil.
As a person that was raised in the Catholic church, this film hit home. I always think of the story where Satan tempts Jesus in the desert. He offers him the world and many other things in this world, and Jesus denies them all. In a way, this film reminded much of that story. Kevin Lomax wasn’t Jesus but he was a man who had been saved. He gave up a life of sin, or so he thought. He was still blinded by his vanity. What would you do if you were offered your dream job? Not knowing the true circumstances or consequences I think we would all accept. There’s a defying moment in this film for Lomax, and that ultimately decides how the story ends.
The Devil’s Advocate definitely just became one of my favorite films. The replay value is definitely there and I’m sure there are plenty of things you will notice over time. I hope that if you are new to this film and you watch it, you will enjoy it as much as I did. – Rascal F. Kennedy
The Devil’s Advocate is now available on Blu-ray and Digital HD.