The Devil's Advocate (1997 film)
|The Devil's Advocate|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Taylor Hackford|
|Produced by||Anne Kopelson
|Screenplay by||Jonathan Lemkin
|Based on||The Devil's Advocate
by Andrew Neiderman
Craig T. Nelson
|Music by||James Newton Howard|
|Editing by||Mark Warner|
|Distributed by||Warner Bros. Pictures|
|Running time||146 minutes|
The Devil's Advocate (marketed as Devil's Advocate) is a 1997 American mystery thriller film based on Andrew Neiderman's novel of the same name. It is directed by Taylor Hackford and stars Keanu Reeves, Al Pacino, and Charlize Theron.
The film's title is a reference to the commonly used phrase "devil's advocate", and Pacino's character is named after the author of Paradise Lost, John Milton. The movie has some minor allusions to Milton's epic, such as the famous quotation "Better to reign in Hell, than to serve in Heaven".
Kevin Lomax, a defense attorney in Gainesville, Florida, has never lost a case. He defends a schoolteacher, Gettys, against a charge of child molestation. During the trial, Kevin realizes that his client is guilty, and a reporter tells him that a guilty verdict is all but inevitable. However, through a harsh cross-examination Kevin destroys the credibility of the victim, Barbara, and secures another not guilty verdict.
As he celebrates, Kevin is approached by a representative of the New York law firm Milton, Chadwick & Waters, who offers him a large sum of money to help the firm with a jury selection. After the jury Kevin helped choose delivers a not guilty verdict, Milton offers him a large salary and a swanky apartment if he joins the firm. Despite warnings from his Evangelical Christian mother, Alice, about big city life, Kevin accepts the job and moves with his wife Mary Ann to Manhattan.
Kevin first defends a Voudou shaman, Phillipe Moyez, who is arrested for ritually sacrificing animals. He compares the incident to kashrut law and claims that his client is protected under freedom of religion, winning the case. Kevin spends an increasing amount of time at work, leaving Mary Ann feeling isolated. Kevin's mother visits New York, and after seeing Mary Ann, suggests that they both return to Gainesville. Kevin however, refuses.
Kevin next defends Alexander Cullen, a billionaire real-estate developer, accused of murdering his wife, her step-child, and a maid. This case demands more of Kevin's time, further separating him from Mary Ann. He begins having fantasies about his seductive co-worker Christabella Andreoli, while Mary Ann begins to have a mental breakdown. Mary Ann claims that the wives of the other partners at the firm are demons after she sees their faces briefly become demonic. Her sanity further erodes following a nightmare she has where a baby plays with her removed ovaries and she finds her gown covered in blood, and after a doctor declares her infertile. She begs Kevin to return to Gainesville. Milton suggests that Kevin step down from the trial to tend to his wife, but Kevin again refuses, claiming that he will not be able to love his wife again until he wins the Cullen trial.
Eddie Barzoon, the firm's managing partner, is convinced that Kevin is competing for his job after finding his name in the company papers as a partner. Although Kevin denies any knowledge, Eddie threatens to inform the United States Attorney's office about the situation. Kevin tells Milton about Eddie's threats, but Milton is unconcerned, sarcastically dismissing Barzoon as "God's special little creature" for his misplaced ambition and attitude. At that moment, Eddie is beaten to death by vagrants, who take on demonic appearances. Mary Ann witnesses this, disturbing her even further.
While preparing Cullen's secretary--and mistress--Melissa Black to testify about Cullen's alibi, Kevin realizes she is lying and tells Milton he believes Cullen is guilty. Milton offers to back Kevin regardless of his decision. Kevin decides to proceed with her testimony and wins an acquittal. After the trial, Kevin finds Mary Ann in a nearby church, naked and scratched with claw marks. She tells her husband that Milton raped and mutilated her, but as Kevin saw Milton in court with him at the time of the alleged attack, he believes that Mary Ann injured herself and has her committed to a mental institution.
Kevin is approached by US Attorney Mitch Weaver about the firm being under investigation by the federal government for illegal activities in drugs and weapons. Initially Kevin ignores him, but Weaver gains his attention after he tells him about the discovery of a dead girl in the car trunk of his former client in Florida. While approaching Kevin, Weaver is hit and killed by a car. Alice returns to New York, having heard of Mary Ann's condition. She, along with Kevin and Pam Garrety, Kevin's case manager at the firm, visit Mary Ann at the mental institution. Alone with Mary Ann, Pam appears as a demon through a mirror. Mary Ann attacks Pam with the mirror and locks herself in the room. As Kevin tries to break down the door, Mary Ann takes a piece of broken glass from the mirror and cuts her throat with it, killing herself.
Before he can mourn, Alice reveals that Milton is Kevin's father. Kevin leaves the hospital to confront Milton, who gleefully admits to raping Mary Ann. Kevin fires a pistol into Milton's chest, but the bullets have no effect. Kevin realizes that Milton is not only his father, but also Satan himself. Kevin blames Milton for everything that happened, but Milton explains that he merely "set the stage", and that Kevin could have left at any time. Kevin eventually admits to this, realizing that he always wanted to win, no matter the cost, and left Mary Ann behind. Milton explains his plans to Kevin, similar to the position Satan takes in "Paradise Lost", and tells him that he wants Kevin and Christabella, who is Kevin's half-sister, to conceive a child: the Antichrist. However, Kevin rejects his Satanic heritage, citing free will just as Milton had earlier, and shoots himself in the head, ruining Milton's plan.
Kevin suddenly wakes up, back at the recess of the Gettys trial, with everything in the film from the end of the original recess up to his suicide having been revealed to all have been in his imagination. After realizing his potential future, Kevin announces in court that he can no longer represent his client, despite the threat of being disbarred. The reporter from the beginning of the film follows Kevin and Mary Ann as they leave the courthouse, pleading for an interview and promising to make Kevin a star for his unexpectedly moral decision. After some prodding from Mary Ann, Kevin reluctantly agrees. After Kevin and Mary Ann leave, the reporter shapeshifts into a grinning Milton. Breaking the fourth wall, he says, "Vanity. Definitely my favorite sin."
- Keanu Reeves as Kevin Lomax
- Al Pacino as John Milton/Satan
- Charlize Theron as Mary Ann Lomax
- Jeffrey Jones as Eddie Barzoon
- Judith Ivey as Alice Lomax
- Connie Nielsen as Christabella Andreoli
- Craig T. Nelson as Alexander Cullen
- Heather Matarazzo as Barbara
- Tamara Tunie as Jackie Heath
- Ruben Santiago-Hudson as Leamon Heath
- Debra Monk as Pam Garrety
- Vyto Ruginis as Mitch Weaver, Justice Dept.
- Laura Harrington as Melissa Black
- Pamela Gray as Diana Barzoon
- George Wyner as Meisel
- Don King as himself
- Delroy Lindo (uncredited) as Phillipe Moyez
- Chris Bauer as Lloyd Gettys
The Devil's Advocate received generally favorable reviews and holds a 66% rating in Rotten Tomatoes based on 47 reviews. The consensus states: "Though it is ultimately somewhat undone by its own lofty ambitions, The Devil's Advocate is a mostly effective blend of supernatural thrills and character exploration."
Critic James Berardinelli wrote that the film "is a highly enjoyable motion picture that's part character study, part supernatural thriller, and part morality play". In contrast, Roger Ebert wrote, "The movie never fully engaged me; my mind raced ahead of the plot, and the John Grisham stuff clashed with the Exorcist stuff."
The Devil's Advocate holds a rating of 60 on Metacritic.
The Devil's Advocate earned $12,170,536 during its opening weekend in the United States finishing second in the box office. It ended with a total domestic gross of $60,944,660, and $92,000,000 internationally.
The film was the subject of legal action following its release. The claim was that the sculpture featuring human forms in John Milton's apartment closely resembled the Ex nihilo sculpture by Frederick Hart on the facade of the Episcopal National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., and that a scene involving the sculpture infringed Hart's rights under copyright law. After a federal judge ruled that the film's video release would be delayed until the case went to trial unless a settlement was reached, Warner Bros. agreed to edit the scene for future releases and to attach stickers to unedited videotapes to indicate there was no relation between the sculpture in the film and Hart's work.
- "THE DEVIL'S ADVOCATE (18)". British Board of Film Classification. 1997-10-31. Retrieved 2013-04-19.
- "The Devil's Advocate (1997)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2011-02-05.
- The Devil's Advocate Movie Review. New York Times
- "The Devil's Advocate Movie Reviews, Pictures". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2011-02-05.
- "Reelviews Movie Reviews". Reelviews.net. Retrieved 2011-02-05.
- "The Devil's Advocate Reviews, Ratings, Credits, and More at Metacritic". Metacritic.com. 1997-10-17. Retrieved 2012-06-11.
- The Devil's Advocate (1997) – Box office / business
- "The Devil's Advocate (1997)". Boxofficemojo.com. Retrieved 2011-02-05.
- "The Devil's Advocate". Benedict.com. Retrieved 2011-02-05.
- Film studio settles claim over copyrighted sculpture The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.
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- The Devil's Advocate at the Internet Movie Database
- The Devil's Advocate at Box Office Mojo
- The Devil's Advocate at Rotten Tomatoes
- The Devil's Advocate at Metacritic