“The Devil’s Advocate”

The opening scene of the film “The Devil’s Advocate” takes place inside a courtroom. Keanu Reeves (John Wick) portrays the character Kevin Lomax, a tenacious lawyer with over sixty consecutive victories. In fact, in his entire young, brilliant career, he’s never lost a case. Kevin is defending Lloyd Gettys, played by Chris Bauer (True Blood). Gettys is a math teacher who has been accused of touching one of his students inappropriately. The role of the student is acted by Heather Matarazzo (Welcome to the Dollhouse). When the prosecutor (Leo Burmester) gets done questioning the girl, it doesn’t look good for Kevin’s client, but the lawyer is fully prepared to counter any damage that has been done to his client in the minds of the jurors. Employing some pointed questioning, and aided by a piece of evidence that contradicts the witness, Kevin once again walks out of the courthouse victorious.

Later that evening, while celebrating at a bar with, among other people, his wife Mary Ann portrayed by Oscar winner Charlize Theron (Monster), Kevin is approached. Leamon Heath, played by Emmy nominee Ruben Santiago-Hudson (Lackawanna Blues) is in town from New York. He has been sent to Florida to recruit Kevin for a high powered law firm, whose headquarters are based in New York City. Kevin, at first, doesn’t believe the offer, but when he opens an envelope handed to him; while not spoken, Kevin’s reaction conveys to the viewer that he is going to be paid a great deal of money to come and pick a jury for the law firm. Leamon tells Kevin that he will get paid win or lose.

Kevin and Mary Ann set off for New York, much to the disappointment of Kevin’s mother Alice. She is a religious woman, who quotes scripture to Kevin, which he promptly ignores. The character is played by Emmy nominee and two time Tony Award winner Judith Ivy (What the Deaf Man Heard).

Kevin arrives in New York and begins working for the firm. After meeting, among others, the firm’s managing partner Eddie Barzoon, played by Golden Globe nominee Jeffrey Jones (Amadeus), as well as becoming enamored with Christabella (Connie Nielsen), a sophisticated and attractive fellow lawyer, Kevin meets the firms enigmatic head partner, John Milton. The character of Milton is portrayed by multiple award winner, including the Oscar for Best Actor, Al Pacino (Scent of a Woman).

As time passes, Kevin immerses himself in his work, to the point where his career is overtaking his time and attention from everything else, including Mary Ann. The viewer will notice that in order to please Milton, as well as maintain his spotless record, Kevin starts to make decisions which call his morals into question. The further he rises in the law firm, the more ominous things start to take place.

Why was Kevin, of all the talented lawyers in America, brought to work for the law firm? Who is John Milton? Why has he taken such an interest in Kevin? Will Kevin give up everything he cares about in order to keep winning, or will he realize the person he was prior to coming to New York and the man he’s becoming are two different people? Those questions and more will be answered by the film’s conclusion.  

Trivia buffs take note: The character of John Milton is named after the author of the epic poem “Paradise Lost” which was published in 1667. Al Pacino turned down playing the part of Milton on several occasions before finally agreeing to play the character. He didn’t think he could perform the role the way it needed to be handled. He suggested to the filmmakers that they try to cast BAFTA winner Sir Sean Connery (The Untouchables) or Oscar winner Robert Redford (Ordinary People). Joel Schumacher (The Client) was originally set to direct the film, at the time he wanted to cast Oscar winner Brad Pitt (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood) in the Kevin Lomax role. The film won the Saturn Award in 1998 for Best Horror Film. The Saturn Awards have been presented annually since 1973 by the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror films.

“The Devil’s Advocate” was directed by Oscar winner Taylor Hackford (Everybody’s All American). The screenplay was written by Jonathan Lemkin (Shooter) and Oscar and two time BAFTA nominee Tony Gilroy (Michael Clayton). The writers based the screenplay for the film off of the 1990 novel of the same name written by Andrew Neiderman. The music for the movie was composed by multiple Oscar nominee and Emmy winner James Newton Howard (Gideon’s Crossing). His music strikes the right balance for any given scene and blends seamlessly throughout the film. Andrzej Bartkowiak’s cinematography does an excellent job of capturing the right mood during the course of the movie’s 144 minute runtime. The film premiered in Westwood, California on October 13, 1997. The movie is comprised of the genres of drama, horror, mystery and thriller.

I’ve seen “The Devil’s Advocate” a number of times, but it had been awhile since the last time I saw it, before sitting down to watch it this past weekend. The cast as a whole, especially Pacino, Reeves, and Theron do an excellent job with their respective roles. There is not a single moment of the film that is wasted. Every scene helps to advance the narrative. The film will most likely appeal to fans of the three leads or those who like a film that takes its time revealing the answers to what is truly taking place.

About robbinsrealm

I was born in Smithtown, New York, and grew up, worked, and lived in various areas of Long Island before moving to Boca Raton, Florida where I now make my home. In addition to being an aspiring writer, I am also an English teacher. I have a Bachelor of Arts in English and a Master’s Degree in Education, both from Adelphi University in Garden City, New York. In my spare time you will find me engrossed in books, watching movies, socializing with friends, or just staying active.
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2 Responses to “The Devil’s Advocate”

  1. One of my favorite Al Pacino movies. Interesting to know that he recommended other actors for the role. I cannot think of anyone who could have delivered that monologue the way Al did.

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