The Devil’s Advocate title image
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144 min.
Release Date
The Devil’s Advocate poster

The Devil’s Advocate is a seductive, Faustian tale of temptation and vanity, masquerading as a legal thriller. Keanu Reeves plays Kevin Lomax, a defense attorney from Gainesville, Florida, where, in the opening scene, he defends a pedophile whom he knows to be guilty because he wants to win the case. For Kevin, a flawless win rate is more important than everything else—his morality, his wife, even his eternal soul—but he doesn’t know this about himself yet. Directed by Taylor Hackford, the film tells the story of the naive but talented attorney who’s talked into uprooting his life to move to the Big Apple, where he serves under the resident Mephistopheles. More accurately, Kevin is tempted by the head of an all-powerful law firm, winkingly named John Milton (as in the author of Paradise Lost, 1667) and played by Al Pacino. Milton announces, “I have so many names,” with a playful inflection, emphasizing what the title already reveals. Although Pacino’s wily and delicious performance eventually leads to an over-the-top climax that threatens to derail the entire picture, The Devil’s Advocate develops patiently and effectively over 143 minutes. Given its concern with the gradual degradation of well-drawn characters in the preceding two hours, the late-film silliness is passable.

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