OK, Halloween is over. But, that doesn’t mean you can’t indulge in one of the finest horror-infused morality plays ever created.
1997 was one of the strangest years in film that I can ever remember. It was a year awash in sequels that elicted mixed feelings at best. Batman & Robin, Vegas Vacation and Alien: Resurrection killed their respective series dead. Scream 2, Speed 2: Cruise Control, and The Lost World: Jurassic Park 2 were all greeted with derision. The Star Wars special edition re-releases dominated the box office for six weeks.
In the realm of original movies, they were generally divided into exercises in excess and/or camp, or hangovers of negativity where jaded grungy pessimism took on a stale and grody quality. Cop Land, The Game, Conspiracy Theory, L.A. Confidential, Donnie Brasco, Lost Highway, Breakdown, U-Turn, She’s So Lovely, and Wag the Dog would define one side of the equation while Volcano, Face/Off, Anaconda, Austin Powers, Men in Black, and Romy and Michele would define the other. At the end of this year’s worth of bizarre movies, Titanic would blow up the box office.
Straddling the two sides of the equation, The Devil’s Advocate was a cynical exercise in excess. This thriller tells the tale of Kevin Lomax (Keanu Reeves). a southern small town defense lawyer with big dreams raised in the church by a single mother (Judith Ivey). After successfully defending a child molester by crushing one of his victims on the witness stand, Lomax is invited to move to New York to be a big shot lawyer in a firm run by John Milton (Al Pacino). Leaving his wife, Mary Ann (Charlize Theron), to nest in their Rosemary’s Baby-esque apartment, Kevin becomes increasingly drawn by success in the face of corruption. Meanwhile, Mary Ann starts losing her mind.
Directed by Taylor Hackford (Dolores Claiborne), The Devil’s Advocate is a thriller that rapidly spirals out of control. Excess is the name of this game, where evil lurks around every decision. Lomax faces a constant series of Catch-22 style decisions, where each side has their own pitfall. There are no positives, there is no escape, and there certainly is no way to survive with your soul in tact. Meanwhile, Reeves turns in a bizarre overstated performance that is only accentuated by Charlize Theron going mad, and Al Pacino at his Hoo-Hah-iest. With gorgeous sets and New York as a backdrop, it’s a good thing Hackford provides plenty of scenery because there’s little left once the leads get through with it. With all of this weight behind it, it still manages to be a blast of a horror movie, and have fun with all of its darkest tendencies.
The Devil’s Advocate streams on Netflix Instant.