Book by Morris L. West, published in 1959.

It follows an English priest, Blaise Meredith, who is dying of cancer. He is sent to investigate a man proposed for sainthood in a desperately poor area of rural Italy. Meredith has been chosen to be Promoter of the Faith, or Devil's Advocate, in the canonization process.

The candidate for sainthood, Giacomo Nerone, had appeared in the Calabrian villages of Gemello Minore and Gemello Maggiore during World War II. Within a few months, he was executed by the partisans. His actions in that brief period, between arrival and death, plus the miracles attributed to him thereafter, are the subject of the investigation. Meredith finds the villagers of Gemello Minore still deeply divided over Nerone's life and death, more than fifteen years afterwards.

The theme of the book is redemption, not just of a mysterious figure in the darkest days of the War, but of many of the people Meredith meets in the investigation, and, finally, of Meredith himself.

A film version of the book was made in West Germany in 1978, entitled Des Teufels Advokat. It was scripted by West himself, directed by Guy Green, and starred John Mills as Meredith. Although it was a German production, it was an English-language movie.

The Devil's Advocate

Released October 17, 1997 (US, Canada)
Directed by Taylor Hackford
Running time: 144 minutes
Rated R

Cast (shortlist):

Keanu Reeves              Kevin Lomax
Al Pacino                 John Milton
Charlize Theron           Mary Ann Lomax
Jeffrey Jones             Eddie Barzoon
Judith Ivey               Mrs. Alice Lomax
Connie Nielsen            Christabella Andreoli

"Vanity...definitely my favorite sin..."
- John Milton

Filled with beautiful cinematography, a riveting score, a superb script, and a few excellent performances, the Devil's Advocate was easily one of the best movies to come out of 1997. The best way to describe it is one part psychological thriller, one part human drama, with a splash of horror, served up with a garnish of black humor.

Keanu Reeves, as Kevin Lomax, has everything going for him. As a district attorney in Gainseville, Florida, he won 64 straight convictions. As a defense attorney, he was undefeated. He's married to a gorgeous woman whom he's still madly in love with. And following another startling acquittal for a client which seemed guiltier than OJ, he begins to be courted by an ultra-powerful New York City law firm, run by one John Milton. Life is beautiful, so to speak.

Milton, portrayed beautifully by Al Pacino, takes a liking to Lomax from their first meeting. Milton showers Lomax and his wife, Mary Ann, played aptly by Chalize Theron, with money, a lavish apartment in the firm's private building, and plenty of attention. Though it seems too good to be true, Lomax and his wife jump at the offer, allowing them to escape their humdrum and harried existence in Florida. But all is not well for long.

Assigned to a triple homicide within days of his hiring, Lomax is forced to spend more and more time on the case, and his wife flounders alone in the apartment. For the first time in her adult life, she finds herself not needing to work, and she tries desperately to find something to do with her time. Slowly but surely, the free time and separation from her husband begin to take their toll on Mary Ann, and she begins to experience visual hallucinations and nightmares. We begin to get the distinct impression that bad things are coming.

Needless to say, the foreshadowing is extremely strong, and if you've seen the trailer or even read most other reviews, you'll have a good idea what the surprise twist of the plot is. I won't ruin that though; you'll just have to see it for yourself.

Reeves gives one of the best performances of his career here, and although that may not say much, it's worth noting. His Florida accent, though a bit weak, is a nice touch, and he emotes nearly right on. The best part, though, is Pacino - Director Taylor Hackford has essentially given him a "License to Go Totally Over the Top," and Pacino eagerly does just that, and it's a beautiful sight. There isn't another actor who could've pulled off the climactic scene in Milton's penthouse without descending into camp, and Pacino needs to be given kudos for that.

As mentioned before, the camera work, lighting, and overall visual effect of this movie is stunning. The intensity of the scenes is heightened immensely by the wonderful audio track, most of which was composed by James Newton-Howard for the movie.

This is definitely one of my favorite movies. It isn't really Top 5 material, but considering I own a mere 10 DVDs and this will probably be purchased before I hit 20, Top 25 wouldn't be a stretch. But I'm no cinematic gourmet, if you catch my drift. Then again, most people aren't.

Final Verdict: 4/5

The Devil's Advocate (DVD)

Warner Studios, Released November 6, 2001

Details

Special Features

  • Commentary by director Taylor Hackford
  • Production notes
  • Theatrical trailer(s)
  • Over 10 minutes of deleted scenes with commentary by director Taylor Hackford

The Devil's Advocate: Music From The Motion Picture

Released October 28, 1997 (US) on TVT Records
Original Score composed by James Newton-Howard. All tracks composed, produced, and orchestrated by him unless noted.

Track Listing:

  1. Vanity (Movie dialogue track)
  2. Main Title
  3. New York
  4. Milton
  5. Rendevous (Michael Lang)
  6. Lovemaking
  7. Christabella
  8. Apartment Building
  9. Barzoon
  10. Montage
  11. Geddes/Weaver
  12. Baby
  13. Finish the Story
  14. Time
  15. Cullen Gets Off
  16. Suicide
  17. Can't Have Children
  18. Baka
  19. 57th Street
  20. Aire on the G String (J.S. Bach, performed by Virgil Fox)
  21. Church
  22. I Rest My Case
  23. Fire
  24. Ring
  25. Surprise (Movie dialogue track)
  26. Finale (Movie dialogue track)


    References:

    • http://www.imdb.com/
    • http://www.allmusic.com/
    • http://www.amazon.com/

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