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'The Devil's Own': Satan's Spawn

By Desson Howe
Washington Post Staff Writer
March 28, 1997

"The Devilís Own," which stars Harrison Ford and Brad Pitt, is so epically awful, itís practically homeric. With self-incriminating eloquence, it evokes everything that is wrong with Hollywood, from the industryís obsession with casting to its inability to differentiate good scripts from bad.

How bad is this movie? Bad enough to make Pitt tell Newsweek that "The Devilís Own" was "the most irresponsible bit of filmmaking -- if you can even call it that -- that Iíve ever seen." He has since retracted his statement.

Frankly, the evidence stinks for itself. This movie -- despite director Alan J. Pakulaís efforts to the contrary -- has a seat-of-the-pants quality, as if the filmmakers made it up as they went along.

Pitt plays Frankie McGuire, an IRA activist who as a child witnessed the slaying of his father at the hands of the British. Now a grown Belfast dude, he has taken up the struggle himself, popping Brit soldiers, ducking into doorways and muttering in a sort of punky Emerald Isle patter. Imagine Kato Kaelin with a bad Irish accent.

Frankie takes a trip to America, where he plans to pick up a few Stinger missiles for the IRA then smuggle the materiel back to Ireland. While he waits for the deal to go down, he assumes a false identity as construction worker Rory Devaney and rents a room in the basement of Tom OíMeara (Ford), an Irish American cop with a family. The OíMearas warm up to this personable tenant from the Old Country, unaware that Mr. Shamrock is brokering a deal with psycho middleman Treat Williams to blow away vast numbers of Protestants. Inevitably, the freedom fighterís parallel lives are bound to intersect; and Frankieís going to have some explaining to do.

It is interesting (in a sort of stare-at-the-accident way) to watch how these professionals collectively attempt to make a silk purse out of a sowís ear. Ford acts as if the ridiculous scenario unfolding before him is entirely believable. And for all his lamentations, Pitt appears to give it his best -- although that isnít quite good enough.

Director Pakula (whose credits include "Klute," "All the Presidentís Men" and "Presumed Innocent") tries to infuse the movie with suspense. But heís knee-capped by a klutzy story (including an almost gratuitous subplot involving OíMearaís trigger-happy partner, played by Ruben Blades) and a distinct lack of chemistry between the marquee headliners. If "The Devilís Own" (credited to writers Kevin Jarre, David Aaron Cohen and Vincent Patrick) proves anything, itís the somewhat anticlimactic notion that landlords should always check their tenantsí references.

THE DEVILíS OWN (R) ó Contains sexual situations, violence, profanity and Brad Pitt doing an "Irish" accent.

© Copyright 1997 The Washington Post Company

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