Keanu’s lawyer is caught between the devil and the deep blue sea…
Florida Lawyer Kevin Lomax is headhunted by one handsome Devil to work in his prestigious New York practice. But Kevin’s over religious mother has concerns.
Devil’s Advocate (1997) Official Trailer – Al Pacino, Keanu Reeves Drama Movie HD, MovieClips Classic Trailers
After seeing the film poster for this film years ago, I’d dismissed it as another courtroom drama of the Tom Cruise vs whoever variety. The sort of film where Cruise is an up and coming attorney somewhere in America. Then after discovering some undisclosed evidence for the prosecution, he seriously kicks the ass out of the defence, wins the case and then zooms off on a motorbike to a 90s soundtrack.
I discovered after writing this was actually a movie, but this is not that movie… The Devil’s Advocate (1997) is a film that I watched (at Darlin Husband’s insistence) and then had made a mental note to review. It grew on me slowly after the film built up from a thriller to psychological horror to bat shit crazy heights.
The film has Al Pacino hamming it up as the Devil himself, a film fact which apparently is known by everyone and anyone, whether they have seen the movie or not. But had for some reason gone over my head despite the giveaway title.
The film starts in familiar territory, Kevin Lomax (Keanu Reeves) is a young, devilishly handsome lawyer – from Florida – with an impressive law career. He’s had an amazing career never losing a case with 63 convictions to his credit. He is now fighting for the defence of Gettys, a teacher now suspected child molester.
Lomax is supported in court by his pretty wife (with an impressive spiral perm), Mary Ann (Charlize Theron). However during court recess, after Lomax discovers that Gettys is guilty as charged, he is taunted by a local reporter, Larry (Neal Jones) he will lose this case.
This is where things take a darker turn… as Lomax returns to the courtroom and then after cross-examining the child concerned, he wins the case. This would have been the moment that would have led Cruise to turn his back on the profession, become a barman and work for Bryan Brown in Hawaii. But I digress, as instead, Lomax goes out on a night out with Mary Ann and some pals as they celebrate this win.
On this night out, he is headhunted by a minion of John Milton – with Milton the head of a New York law firm, Milton, Chadwick and Walters – to join his law company. After seeing Lomax at work, Milton is impressed with Lomax’s ability to get a not guilty verdict from the jury. He promptly offers him a job.
The job comes with a luxury apartment, travel and a huge salary are thrown in. Lomax’s over religious mother, single mum, Alice (Judith Ivey) – a preacher’s daughter – is overly concerned about her boy. She quotes the Bible at him as she fears that New York is similar to Babylon and full of fallen demons. It’s later revealed Lomax never knew his father.
Lomax takes the job and meets his charismatic and eccentric boss, John Milton (Al Pacino). The pair bond immediately, after Milton invites him to his office. Milton’s office is minimal, to say the least with bare stone walls but a fireplace, which feels unsettling when compared to that 70s plush Airport (1970) one which also boasted this feature.
This office is on the top floor, with doors to the roof which has some rather groovy water features. Mary Ann seems happy picking out the decor and she now hopes to have their first baby. Lomax meets his colleagues and is attracted to a pretty colleague (also with a spiral perm), Christabella Andreoli (Connie Nielsen). Lomax works more and is given his first case for the firm, which he wins easily. He works late constantly and sees less of his wife, as Mary Ann feels more and more isolated and alone.
At a party at his colleague, managing director, Eddie Barzoon’s (Jeffrey Jones) place, Milton is a bit flirty with Mary Ann, suggesting she cuts her hair. Christabella tries it on unsuccessfully with the loyal Lomax. Later Barzoon and Lomax are summoned to Milton’s apartment. Milton’s apartment is even more minimal than his office, with no bedroom but only a distinctive white marble orgy as decoration.
Milton’s billionaire client, Alex Cullen (Craig T Nelson) has been charged with a triple murder of his wife, maid and his stepson. Milton insists Lomax takes the case, however, his joy in his promotion is quashed as Mary Ann is upset that Lomax left her alone at the party and they fight.
Mary Ann tries to make friends with the other more money-motivated wives in the apartment block. However, after seeing one wife’s face appears to become demonlike, she becomes afraid of these women. Mary Ann is still keen to have a baby an increasingly lonely. She makes love with Lomax, however, during this, he has visions of her being Christabella (despite Mary Ann’s short haircut).
Alice visits and she meets Milton soon after she arrives, then she says wants to go home. So she leaves soon after she arrives. She tells Lomax of her strong beliefs and her worries that Mary Ann is becoming unwell. She wants to take Mary Ann home to Florida, but Lomax says no.
Lomax bonds with the boss on a night out with drink, women and boxing matches. Milton appears to have a genial sense of humour, women falling at his feet and the gift of the gab. This is in that he can talk his way out of a situation and confrontation in any language. While Lomax is out gallivanting with the boss, Mary Ann believes that she sees a baby playing with her ovaries, after she discovers she is infertile.
Things are looking damning for Cullen with reports saying Cullen’s wife had believed he was having an affair with his assistant at work. Milton suggests to Lomax to be there for his wife and drop handling Cullen’s case, as Mary Ann becomes increasingly unwell… and if you want to know more you know what to do…
It was interesting to see Lomax’s character change from your first impressions of an apparent loved up nice guy who happened to be fighting for the defence in a controversial court case. The many layers of Lomax’s character were revealed “after recess” and his then courtroom and subsequent behaviour were increasingly more abhorrent.
There’s much written on how his character develops after these scenes. These detail how his more innocent white suits are slowly replaced by darker suits as his character becomes more and more involved with Milton and his company. This plot technique seemed reminiscent of Nina’s change of character in Black Swan (2010) as seen HERE.
Also like Nina who takes illicit drugs, Lomax starts to smoke, both these habits not seen in their character in earlier scenes. Reeves was convincing in both sides to his character and his rapport with Theron and Pacino was always evident.
Mary Ann seemed at first both a supportive and confident wife. Then after the move to New York, she developed into a more tragic figure. She was left increasingly alone while her husband worked and with no possible chance of children and at the mercy of the company wives.
These women seemed so much more despicable than her, enjoying spending their husband’s wages and this was a clash in values for Mary Ann. They also took away her confidence and Mary Ann was easily manipulated by these women, Lomax and Milton for their own benefits. The only person apparently concerned for her mental health and well being is Lomax’s church-going mother.
Mary Ann’s character appeared to develop mental health problems or as it’s hinted at that she may have insight into the more devilish doings of Milton and his colleagues. On reflection (no pun intended) her fears and thoughts were seen as she looked in a mirror, and this device appears as symbolic of her sanity. First with showing the beliefs of those company wives and workers demons led to a more tragic scene involving a broken mirror.
Al Pacino lets us into his true character’s identity slowly, with it playing out like a severe mental health problem. He started with little acceptable quirks to full-blown madness. This was seen as he builds Milton up from a charismatic and charming boss to then adding odd behaviours here and there.
Finally, he appears to play him like an increasingly frenzied and manic violin player as his true identity and his motives are revealed. These scenes are played to over the top heights by Pacino, putting all those actors and actresses who performed devilish roles in the shade.
Pacino’s devilish eccentricities and over passionate monologue, are acted out much more passionately than the Devil as Daryl Van Horne (from The Witches of Eastwick (1987)). Pacino as Satan – despite a liking for Frank Sinatra songs – makes Jack Nicholson as Van Horne and his hatred of women seem like an OTT version of Nicholson’s Melvin Udall in As Good as it Gets (1997).
Milton’s subtle manipulations of the other characters reveal much more chilling – and crazy – motives than Damien (in The Omen trilogy himself). Pacino appeared to relish and enjoy playing this character and made him disturbingly genial and edgy and unpredictable in those later scenes.
As Satan, his character had one more ace up his sleeve and as he played his best card, he’s then seen as really much more to Lomax than the Devil in disguise. As this film continues, there are incredible revelations and outcomes for Kevin, his wife and his mother. These are shown in chilling, eerie but captivating scenes which lead to an enigmatic ending, which only the Devil himself could dream up…
Weeper Rating: 😦 /10
Handsqueeze Rating: 🙂🙂🙂🙂🙂🙂🙂🙂/10
Second Luso World Cinema Blogathon 2021, No 2
This was added to Critica Retro and Spellbound by Movies‘ Second Luso World Cinema Blogathon. Keanu Reeves stars in reviews of The Lake House, Point Break, Bram Stokers Dracula, Destination Wedding, The John Wick films and MORE. Al Pacino appears in Once Upon A Time in Hollywood. Charlize Theron stars in A Million Ways to Die in the West, Furious 7 and The Fate of The Furious. Jeffery Jones stars in Ed Wood and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Craig T Nelson starred in Charlie’s Angels.