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The Devil's Advocate

A film review by Joe Parra

Rating: 3 out of a possible 4

The Devil's Advocate is candy.  This Regency/Warner Bros. release employs Al Pacino as Satan (here named "John Milton"!) as head of a major NYC law firm with the best attorneys, the biggest clients (Senator Al D'Amato and Don King, appearing as themselves), the swankiest offices, and apartments/condos on 5th Ave. - you get the picture.  Satan hires Kevin Lomax (played by Keanu Reeves), a hot-shot attorney from Florida, as a new up-and-comer to handle a bizarre case involving ritual animal slaughter and voodoo as practiced by a bizarre resident of a tenement temple in Harlem (an excellent uncredited cameo by Delroy Lindo).  Lomax has never lost a case in Florida, so why start now?  In a hilariously macabre courtroom scene, the district attorney can't seem to speak, so Lomax wins again.  Lomax's wife is also on the receiving end of "benefits," as she becomes an unwilling pawn in a rather harrowing and horrific game of wills.  Director Taylor Hackford puts his actors through their paces nicely.  He also has quite a firm hand on the horror, keeping it low-key enough for a Val Lewton chiller from the 1940s for the most part, yet loosing the dogs of war when needed.  Al Pacino pulls out all the stops as the Devil and adds yet another worthwhile villain's role to his credit - finally, one in a horror movie.  Keanu Reeves does nicely as Kevin Lomax, displaying cockiness and horror at the situations with equal dexterity.  (I didn't know he had it in him!!)  The rest of the cast are excellent, with Judith Ivey a standout as Lomax's religious mother - and Jeffrey Jones and Craig T. Nelson also receiving kudos for their work as (respectively) a slimeball yes-man and a corrupt builder.  Andrew Neiderman's novel is kept fairly well in tact, with the ending undergoing some major alterations (no I won't tell you how!!!) by scenarists Tony Gilroy and Jonathan Lemkin.  Yes, there are obvious parallels to Paradise Lost and The Devil and Daniel Webster, etc. -- they're intentional.  Andrzej Bartkowiak's cinematography is lovely, as are the incredible special effects by Rick Baker and Out of the Blue FX (a new FX house).  James Newton Howard's score mixes new music with established Gregorian chants.  Granted, this isn't new with Devil movies, but he does it with the skill of Jerry Goldsmith.  The only negative comment is that at 144 minutes, it's about ? hour too long.  However, one must give the Devil his due, especially at the Feast of Samhain (that's Halloween to all the plebians out there); and this trick is definitely a treat.

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