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'Devil': Not So Hot

By Rita Kempley
Washington Post Staff Writer
March 26, 1997

Is the big screen big enough for both The Star of the Century and The Sexiest Man Alive?

"The Devil's Own," which teams titleholders Harrison Ford and Brad Pitt, suggests that celestial density of this magnitude invites a dramatic implosion that few sparks can escape.

Murky and slow-moving, the political thriller explores the ideological differences between Tom O'Meara (Ford), a big-hearted Irish American cop, and Rory Devaney (Pitt), a hardened but hunky IRA terrorist. After a fierce street battle with British troops in Belfast, the Irish Republican Army's top gun travels to New York City to purchase a cargo of Stinger missiles for the cause. He plans to transport them home himself in a little tugboat he spends much of the movie refurbishing.

A sympathetic American judge supplies him with a cover story and arranges to put him up with Tom, his wife (Margaret Colin) and their three daughters. Tom, who thinks Rory is an immigrant dodging the "troubles," observes that it'll be nice to have somebody else in the house "who pees standing up."

Clearly, Tom wishes he had a son with whom to enjoy manly pursuits. Rory, who lost his own da as a boy, finds another father in the older man. While Rory awaits delivery of the missiles, he bonds with Tom over dark ale at the neighborhood bar, where they best a pair of Italian Americans in a game of pool.

While Rory goes about prying his missiles from the clutches of an evil arms dealer (Treat Williams) and his goons, Tom and his partner (Ruben Blades) round up purse snatchers and car thieves.

Ford's earthy Everyman and Pitt's vengeful youth are probably more interesting than they have any right to be inside these tired macho roles. Of course, Rory and Tom could be bursting with blarney and the movie still wouldn't gather any momentum.

"The Devil's Own," doubtless due to hubris on the part of one or both actors, is really two separate, almost equal stories that sometimes intersect but never really mesh. Each character tackles his own problem, then the two are reunited for an improbable finale. Veteran director Alan Pakula, whose last film was "The Pelican Brief," brings a pedestrian pace and brooding tone to the piece that do nothing to disguise its many inadequacies.

The Devil's Own is rated R for profanity and violence.

© Copyright 1997 The Washington Post Company

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