The Devil's Advocate

Memphis Flyer

DIRECTED BY: Taylor Hackford

REVIEWED: 10-27-97

Directed by Taylor Hackford (Dolores Claiborne, An Officer and a Gentleman) and written by Tony Gilroy, The Devil's Advocate revolves around Kevin Lomax (Keanu Reeves), a hotshot Florida defense attorney who's wooed to New York by the massively successful lawyer John Milton (Al Pacino), who just happens to be the Devil. Milton lavishes his new employee and his wife Mary Ann (Charlize Theron) with a generous salary and a massive apartment. He tests Kevin with a small case and then drops a jewel in his lap -- defending a much-maligned real estate developer (Craig T. Nelson), who's been accused of murdering his wife and two others. Kevin quickly gets used to the good life, ignoring that his wife is becoming increasingly unhinged. By the time Kevin realizes what's happening it's too late -- his mentor has him exactly where he wants him.

If the concept behind The Devil's Advocate sounds a bit too precious, it is. The movie plays out as if it was written by a high-schooler pumped up on too much Surge and heavy-metal music. The Devil as a lawyer (with the name John Milton, no less) is an obvious choice, though it's probably no less scary than, say, if the Devil were your mail carrier. To couch the concept, the filmmakers pump up the film with a lot of gloss and sex with a touch of gore for good measure. The action takes place in sterile, marble-filled opulence. There is lots of nudity, a slit throat, plenty of hallucinations, and bored rich housewives who morph into demons.

Reeves as the Devil's dupe proves to be mostly nondescript despite his syrupy Southern accent. And while Theron puts in a good performance as Kevin's shell-shocked, insecure wife, her character is purely sacrificial. Pacino as the Devil has his moments. He preens and boasts about his prowess with the ladies. His devilish charm aside, however, he hardly comes off as too terrifically sinister. A good push could knock him on his ass. In fact, Milton could be any lawyer with an oversized ego.

The Devil's Advocate isn't exactly hellish. It's more of a two-hour-plus purgatory.

--Susan Ellis

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