The Devil’s Advocate (1997)

There’s sick delight to be taken in Pacino’s gradual transformation from shrewd legal bigwig to Satan incarnate.
Our Rating

Genre(s): Drama, Mystery, Thriller

Director: Taylor Hackford

Actors: Keanu Reeves, Al Pacino, Charlize Theron, Jeffrey Jones, Judith Ivey, Connie Nielsen, Craig T. Nelson

Year: 1997

MPAA Rating: R

Country: USA

When The Devil’s Advocate first came to video in the late nineties, my co-workers at a tiny independent video store literally fought over who got to keep the screener. Yes, a VHS screener that periodically ran the words “property of Warner Home Video” right over pivotal scenes and threatened death and doom if one were to do anything other than quietly view the movie in a private setting for work-related purposes. Not only was it a kick-ass Pacino film, but holy crap there was some sort of controversy about the art in the movie and maybe it would be the only copy ever to show it (future collector’s item – ka-ching!). Years after the store closed and we all went our separate ways, the incident was still referenced with bitterness. “He got The Devil’s Advocate, didn’t he? I wanted that.”

Is The Devil’s Advocate worth fighting over? Heck yeah! But why would you get all scrappy about it when you could just pick up the new Blu-ray edition? You’ll get the unrated director’s cut with all the bells and whistles. There’s even a little disclaimer about that forbidden sculpture on the back of the box. Best of all, you get to see Keanu Reeves go toe to toe with Al Pacino in a smart, twisted, and darkly funny film.

Reeves stars as Kevin Lomax, a hot young lawyer with a perfect track record and a sexy Southern Belle (Charlize Theron) for a wife. Having never lost a case, Lomax is an extremely appealing new hire, and he’s quickly lured to New York to work for one of the city’s top firms. With a posh apartment, an enviable income, and an encouraging mentor to guide him, it would appear that Kevin Lomax is on top of the world. Except that Kevin’s new father figure (Pacino) just happens to be the devil himself.

As Kevin’s moral boundaries are pushed to their limits and his wife’s sanity begins to unravel, he must question whether having it all warrants selling his soul. His bewilderment is palpable as the plot twists and turns (after all, bewilderment is what Keanu plays best), and there’s sick delight to be taken in Pacino’s gradual transformation from shrewd legal bigwig to Satan incarnate. He may have been accused of chewing the scenery in recent years, but we’re talking about the devil here. When are you going to take it over the top if not while giving an epic rant as you stand at the mouth of hell?! There’s something kind of fabulous about the movie’s slow burn: the style, sophistication, and drama gradually gives way to debauchery, mirroring Kevin Lomax’s unexpected descent into hell. Though slow at times (especially upon repeated viewing), the payoff at the end is satisfying every time.


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