The Devil You Know (The Devil’s Advocate, 1997)

The_Devils_Advocate_PosterKevin Lomax is a hotshot lawyer in a small Florida town. He has never lost a cost, until it seems, he finds himself unable to defend a school teacher accused of molesting young girls. He manages to undermine and humiliate the accuser and win the case after all. This brings him to the attention of a large New York firm.

Skeptical at first, Kevin and Mary Ann Lomax are soon swept away by the lavish lifestyle afforded them. But the more time passes, the more Kevin’s ambition starts causing him to turn a blind eye to the darker aspects of this world.

At the same time, Mary Ann is drowning in this new world, her confidence constantly being undermined by supposed friend Jackie.

It all leads to the discovery that…well, the head of the law firm is Satan. And Satan has big plans for Kevin.

The film is not a metaphor, I mean, Al Pacino’s John Milton (subtle) is definitely the devil, there is all sorts of supernatural moments…Kevin is the young man tempted by his own lusts for achievement.  At one point, when Mary Ann is seemingly lost, Milton offers Kevin an opportunity to step back, devote time to helping his wife work back to health. But Kevin justifies not doing so out of “concern” that if she got better, he would resent her for it.

I have always had a soft spot for this film. I think Pacino has a lot of fun, and some great over the top dialog.  It has a really solid cast (Craig T. Nelson plays an obvious trump analog).

It can, however, be a bit ham-fisted, and it can be really hard to want Kevin to succeed in the film watching him constantly make the most awful choices. And what is really annoying? The cheat of the end of the film. It makes almost the entire story feel like there were no lessons to be learned. There is also some really terrible digital compositing…in scenes where there should not have been that big of a challenge (the cityscape behind Reeves and Connie Nielsen in one scene where they are on a balcony is just…embarrassingly bad, especially post Jurassic Park).

But, again, Pacino is fun to watch (his massive speech at the end is a pretty fair indictment of humanity, all done with that Pacino flair) and this is one of those Keanu roles where he is kind of clueless, which seems to allow him to deliver some of his best performances. Charlize Theron is sweet and sympathetic pretty much all through the film, and her descent into the mouth of madness is heartbreaking.  The Devil’s Advocate is a mostly fun watch with even a few moments of insight.

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