Catching Up: “The Devil’s Advocate”

Some films are well known because of their titles and cast. That draw is surprisingly powerful and can lead to good results.

Then there are the films that effortlessly lead one into thinking the film will be fun based on this fact alone, but turn out to be anything but. I found this out the hard way.

With the Warner Bros. Pictures and Regency Enterprises film “The Devil’s Advocate”, I found myself intrigued by various aspects of this film, but not much more.

This thriller stars Keaneu Reeves (“47 Ronin”, “Man of Tai Chi”), Al Pacino (“Phil Spector”, “Stand Up Guys”), Charlize Theron (“A Million Ways to Die in the West”, “Snow White and the Huntsman”), Jeffrey Jones (“Hemingway & Gellhorn”, “Deadwood”), Judith Ivey (“Elementary”, “Assistance”), Connie Nielsen (“The Following”, “Return to Zero”), and Craig T. Nelson (“Parenthood”, “Soul Surfer”).

The film was directed by Taylor Hackford (“Parker”, “Love Ranch”) and written by Jonathan Lemkin (” Shooter”, “Red Planet”) and Tony Gilroy (“State of Play”, “Duplicity”) and is based on the novel of the same name by Andrew Neiderman.

The film was released on Oct. 17, 1997.

The filmed aimed to be a lot of things at once, legal drama, supernatural thriller, and ridiculously long film. Sadly it’s because of this that the point, whatever it was, got lost.

By the films end, I couldn’t figure out what the point of any of this was. We knew that Pacino was the devil and Reeves didn’t know this, but then without much thinking or investigating, he seems to just go with this sudden realization that his new boss was the devil. How did he come across this? Did I miss something. I doubt it, but it’s slightly possible as this was an incredibly dull and painful experience.

The reason I can’t see how he came to any of these realizations is that he spent the whole film dismissing what his wife was saying. Yes Theron’s character is supposed to be unstable, and he’s used to this, but how does he go from dismissing her insane rants, to realizing she was right? I just don’t buy it. There was too much randomness going on to keep track of any of the goings on.

To make things worse for this film, the characters were all so bland. We were supposed to believe that Reeves was a lawyer and a good one at that? Please. I saw him and at times, when he was doing what lawyers do best, I laughed. That and he didn’t seem to show any fascial expressions or emotion. The only one who was interesting was Theron, but that’s because she slowly started to descend into madness. At the same time this happened, you felt sorry for her.

Which is more than I can say for the manner with which this film came together. It couldn’t decide if it wanted to be a legal drama or a supernatural thriller. Part of the appeal was that there would be the devil and other supernatural moments, maybe some that creep you out, but that’s not what happened. Mysterious things happened, but they barely registered. More of a letdown.

The legal aspects were interesting, but as this wasn’t one whole long film that took us from beginning to end of the case, it was hard to be invested all that much. Reeves, again, didn’t help things. I couldn’t help but think this would’ve been a tad more interesting if it were a weekly drama.

This film was an ambitious film, which is fine, as so many are not. However, the level it was reaching for was too much. The film suffered from this and ultimately couldn’t meet the demands that were laid out and expected.


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