The Devil’s Advocate (1997)

Keanu Reeves is a hotshot Florida lawyer who’s never lost a case, and he gets an odd invitation to join a high-powered New York firm headed by Al Pacino. Kevin Lomax (Reeves) is slick, but he and his small-town bride Mary Ann (Charlize Theron) aren’t really prepared for the high pressure, high fashion, and high living among the upper crust in the Big Apple.

Why does the firm want Kevin, and why is John Milton (Pacino) always laughing and smiling, even as things go awry? Is something afoot? Meanwhile, various wives of the other lawyers befriend Mary Ann and help her buy new clothes and decorate the new apartment and stuff. You know, wifely duties. Leave the gruntin’ and lawyerin’ to the husbands.

Did I mention Kevin’s never lost a case? Hmm, could that be a set up? Could he now be about to lose the case…. for his soul? (Cue evil laughter.) Well, it’s not giving away much at all to note that John’s relationship to Kevin isn’t just that of an interested mentor, it’s a tad closer, and perhaps a bit more devilish. And then strange things begin to happen, as those who might stand in Kevin’s way are suddenly no longer in the way, and then Mary Ann goes a bit nutso, and then all hell breaks loose.

Pacino is great, in full-on, late-nineties, over-the-top Pacino mode, but Reeves is abysmally awful, severely miscast. Rumor has it that Brad Pitt was also up for the role, and frankly that might have been quite an improvement. Reeves brings his usual dull, monotonic, colorless performance; what he sometimes lacks in verve he makes up for in screaming – and believe me, he’s no ace at screaming. Theron makes a lot out of a piddling spouse-in-peril role; it’s clear she was destined for greater things. An able supporting cast helps, particularly Judith Ivey as Kevin’s churchly mom.

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