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Al Pacino in another sensitive role Call it a megadose of lowered expectations. Call it a proactive audience reaction and an awesome look. Or just call it a great movie, because for some reason, I really, really liked "The Devil's Advocate." God knows I tried not to; Keanu's other movie offerings rank up there with the worst things ever steeped in photographic stopbath (see "Point Break," "Johnny Mnemonic")—and Al Pacino has spent his "comeback" years parodying himself at about 120 decibels ("City Hall," "Scent of a Woman"). But something in this movie works, dammit, and sometimes it even comes close to theological magic.
Keanu Reeves is a backwater lawyer from down here in the South who has never lost a case. When he and his wife (charmingly delivered by Charlize Theron) get an offer to move to New York to work for the most powerful firm in the country, they are initially floored with delight. Soon after their move, though, things grow sinister—Theron has visions of evil that are drawing her into madness, and Reeves finds himself defending some of the most heinous people on Earth. To give away much more than the obvious—that his boss is Satan—would be robbing any potential moviegoer of the movie's decidedly gargantuan conclusion, a speech by Pacino that is up there with moments from "And Justice For All" and even bits of "Dog Day Afternoon". The movie's theme of love, vanity and free will make the talky stuff go down nicely; never going for the easy joke, "The Devil's Advocate" is a masterful mix of bombast and subtlety. Keanu's backwoods lawyer hints at the Devil's literary penchant for fast-talking southerners (or violin players, for that matter). Fire, smoke and ash is a visual theme throughout—but this movie is too smart to ever actually say who Pacino is. Other little audience pleasers abound, too many to mention, but Pacino's swagger is positively seductive. And God bless little Keanu—he's only unforgivable about 15 times in this film, much less than the requisite 300.
Most critics are going to hate this one. I suggest relaxing your critical muscle and taking it all in. With all the labyrinthine intellectual rigor of a doctoral thesis in 20th Century Religion—and all the humor of a vaudeville escapade—"The Devil's Advocate" is a Hell of a good time.
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