Who better to play a man who could be The Devil than Al Pacino. The Devil’s Advocate lets Al Pacino go full Pacino and is all the better for it. This is Pacino having fun, playing up the loud, brash and crass collection of characters that made some of his most famous roles so effective. In a film where everyone else seems to be playing the movie seriously, Pacino knows its really a camp, silly and at its worse, nonsensical movie.
On the other side of this coin is Keanu Reeves. Reeves is currently in the middle of a movie stardom renaissance and by all accounts, has carved out a very successful post John Wick career but here he is at his most wooden, naïve and po-faced worst. He doesn’t seem to match the rest of the movie for energy and when the film gets bizarre, and it does get very bizarre, Reeves can’t do it justice and it hurts the film.
Its a shame because the movie has tons of potential and for the first half, works very well. Reeves’ successful, small town lawyer is poached by Pacino’s New York firm and he his handed what feels like an unwinnable case. The case is an interesting one and if this was just a straight court drama, it would still be compelling. The hook is that as the movie proceeds, Reeves begins to wonder whether his boss could be someone all the more sinister (Hint: The clue is in the title).
The hook is left dangling well in the first half of the movie and the doubt over whether Reeves is slowly going mad under the pressure of the case or whether his concerns are founded make the movie interesting. As the film goes along though, the revelation is far too heavily signposted and although still interesting, it loses some of that intrigue.
This is made even worse by the last thirty minutes of the movie when it becomes something else entirely. The drama, legal case and the serious tone is replaced by a series of bizarre scenes, weird revelations and Pacino giving long monologues of strange exposition. It manages to undo so much of the good work and fairly decent story-telling that went before it.
Overall, The Devil’s Advocate is a movie with a very good idea but poor execution. Pacino gets it, playing his role to perfection but Reeves lets the film down and is exposed even further when the finale of the movie takes a very strange turn which undoes all the good storytelling which precedes it.
Rating – 3.5
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