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'Advocate': Devil With a Blue Suit On

By Desson Howe
Washington Post Staff Writer
October 17, 1997

Letís face it, unlimited power -- and, of course, billable hours -- will make a lawyer out of anyone. "Devilís Advocate," starring Al Pacino and Keanu Reeves, takes this notion one stage further, or perhaps one step under. With a title like this, not to mention previews that show a cackling Pacino standing before the fires of the damned, there are no prizes for guessing where things are headed.

Although itís clear that this film will eventually fall from grace, it takes longer than youíd expect. The story (adapted from Andrew Neidermanís novel by Jonathan Lemkin and Tony Gilroy) is surprisingly well-handled, given its rather crazy premise. (Come to think of it, the notion that Old Nick might be running the legal system isnít that much of a stretch.) Whatís enjoyable about the movie, directed by Taylor ("An Officer and a Gentleman") Hackford, is its wanton excess; plus the fact that nobody takes things seriously, least of all Pacino, who puts on quite a show.

Reeves is Kevin Lomax, a hotshot lawyer in Gainesville, Fla., who never loses. At the beginning, we watch him turn a seemingly hopeless case (a child molester who canít even control his urges in the courtroom) into victory. Lomax is promptly recruited by a law firm run by, tee-hee, John Milton (Pacino), who has his hands in many worldwide ventures. Milton wants Lomax to bring his winning form to Milton, Chadwick, Waters. He offers Lomax and his wife, Mary Ann (Charlize Theron), every possible luxury, from great salary to an amazing Manhattan apartment.

Lomax makes his mark fast. The boss likes him. And it isnít long before other company benefits present themselves -- usually in alluring party dresses. Slowly but surely, Lomax succumbs to temptation. But as things get better, they also get worse. One case heís put in charge of, a murder case involving a real estate developer (Craig T. Nelson), smells fishy, and his wife is definitely feeling the strain of playing wife to an aspiring master of the universe.

You can watch the descent and its final, insane outcome for yourself. As Lomax, Reeves is a rather appealing, laid-back hot-dog, driven by ambitious forces that utterly consume him. Pacinoís a comic prince of darkness. When a knife-wielding Latino punk threatens Lomax and Milton in the subway, Milton suddenly tells the assailant in perfect Spanish, and with uncanny detail, that the hoodís wife is carrying on with an upstairs neighbor on their green bedspread. The punk immediately hops off the train to head home.

"Youíll thank me in the morning," yells Milton after him. Later, when Lomax returns to his apartment building with his wife and mother, heís stopped by Milton and two beautiful women at the elevator. Milton invites Lomax to join him -- and the women -- upstairs. Lomax looks at the two gorgeous women waiting in the elevator. One of them has begun licking at the other womanís mouth. Clearly, this isnít an invitation to play Scrabble. Lomax looks at his glaring wife and mother. With great reluctance, he tells his boss heís going home.

"You sure?" says Milton. As the elevator door slowly closes between them, the you-donít-know-what-youíll-be-missing expression on Miltonís face is priceless.

DEVILíS ADVOCATE (R) ó Contains nudity, sex scenes, profanity and gruesome violence. Some parents may not want their children to see this many successful defense lawyers.

© Copyright 1997 The Washington Post Company

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