Movie Review

Devil's Advocate

Reviewed by: Dave Rettig
CONTRIBUTOR

Extremely Offensive
Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Adults
Genre:
Horror
Length:
130 min.
R

Starring: Al Pacino, Keanu Reeves, Charlize Theron, Delroy Lindo, Craig T. Nelson, Jeffrey Jones, Judith Ivey / Director: Taylor Hackford / Released by: Warner Bros.

Keanu Reeves stars as Kevin Lomax, a very successful criminal defense attorney. Kevin Lomax never loses. In fact, guilty or not, Lomax’s client are always acquitted by a “friendly jury.” So successful is the young barrister, that he receives an invitation to work at a prestigious international law firm. From backwater Florida to a high rise apartment complex in New York, Kevin and Mary Ann Lomax are quickly thrust into a life of money, power, and sex. Yet, little does the neophyte realize the senior partner and his own personal mentor, John Milton, is Satan (Al Pacino).

“Devil’s Advocate” is very offensive. There is a tremendous amount of sexual content including innumerable nude scenes, several explicit sex scenes, and references to heinous sex acts. The movie is littered with profanity, loaded with violence, and contains a number of occult references. This movie, by any measuring stick, deserves the lowest possible rating for Christian content. Except for one thing…

“Devil’s Advocate” is offensive, but the movie is about offensive topics: Satan and sin. This movie does not glorify sin but exposes it as the tools of a devious, fallen angel. Unlike most movies, in which sin has no consequence, “Devil’s Advocate” shows the consequences of sin. Despite atrocious content, this movie does represent the Bible-believing Christians view of Satan and sin and how we are deceived by the deceiver.

I am not promoting viewing this movie. I would ardently urge anyone under 21 or anyone who struggles with sexual sin to shun this movie. If you are determined to see this film, regardless of the above warnings, go with some non-Christian friends and use this film as a bridge to talk about the reality and consequence of sin, the devil and his plans, and the free gift of salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Year of Release—1997

Viewer Comments
I tend to agree that your reviewer of this film missed the point of the movie and so did many of the people who commented on it. Read Matthew 10 and then watch the movie again. Kevin Lomax is a distinguished attorney and knows his Bible. He can quote the verse his mother refers to in the beginning of the movie. Throughout the movie he wrestles with his calling and his passion. Honestly seeking to remain faithful to his wife and topursue the gift God has given him.

At the end his love for and faith in Jesus lets him pull the trigger (re: Matt 10:39). The next scene reveals the metaphor of the movie: Satan has been demytholzised. It is not the Satan that is the problem believers face, but their own sinfulness.

Immediately the previous tempter (not the accuser—legal world), the mediaman poses the opportunity: do you want to become famous? Kevin Lomax faces the same temptations Jesus did (re Matt 4) and we do every day. The threat is not in whom the temptation comes from, but our response to it.
Let’s have a look at the perspective the movie gives on the church. It is not in its formal, institutionalised form the church fulfills its calling (Milton does not enter the area of the liturgy with the funeral and his “power” is shown in the entrance area to the church—the formal sector) but where it provides security to the naked and fearful (Charlize Theron when she runs into the church in need of refuge). Kevin’s mom gives us another hint. In the comfort of her local congregation she is fearless. But when she has to move into the world she is out of hercomfort zone.

The same when she has to confront her fears (Revealing her “sin” while on an evangelizing outreach when she has to identify Kevin’s father). Her confession brings a turning point: “I should not have lefther. I should have stayed. It is my fault,” she says when she is confronted by the fate of her daughter in law. The church—as institution as well as individual believers are called to “be there.” To find the needs of people and to fulfill it, to heal the hurt people have. The clue: verse 16. Thus is our calling: go and proclaim the gospel.

But be aware and be righteous. Isn’t it a pity that moviemakers understand the art of communicating (the gospel included) better than we as Christians do?

The movie filled me with awe towards the living God. Rather focus on God and on Who He is and what he does than being the devil’s advocate. Christians do not have to be afraid of opportunity but has to live as people sent by the living God in a world full of temptation. We are called to live for our Lord (:39). And remember: to our heavenly Father you are worth a lot (:31).
—Gerhard Bothma
My wife and I just finished watching “The Devil’s Advocate.” We are both 24 years of age. I definitely would not suggest this as a family movie… However, I can see how this movie could be used as a tool to reaching the lost to a certain extent.

I saw more allegory in this film than almost any thus far, in regards to spiritual matters. Of course Satan’s ultimate sins were portrayed: vanity, greed, and lust. But the challenge of figuring out each tactic in the movie taught me and/or reinforced some spiritual wisdom of the Word. In the best secular way possible this film portrayed the scripture, “Bring up a child in the way that he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it.” Also the scene of Reeves committing suicide towards the end could be allegorized as mans' only defense against the devil’s tactics, death to self.

This is not in the carnal sense, of course. As Christians we need to kill the old man daily in order to stand against the wiles of the devil, that is walk in the spirit and not in the flesh. I guarantee that a Christian cannot watch this movie all the way through without being convicted of something. So aside from the nudity, profanity, etc. I think valuable wisdom can be squeezed out of this film if one pays very close attenti on to the dialogue, layout, and plot.
—Mike
I felt that the review for Devil’s Advocate was incredibly off-base. I am surprised at how many people agreed with that review. True, the movie is laden with sex and foul language. What do you expect in a film about Satan???!!!

This is probably one of the most accurate depictions of Satan that I have ever seen on film. I would agree that some of the sex scenes are a bit over the top, though not necessarily uncalled for. The final scene is a bit over the top as well what with the flames and all. Nonetheless, this does not damage the integrity of the film. Satan is painted as the great deceiver who twists words and meanings.

Did you want a guy in a red suit with a pitchfork? Instead we see a devil that uses people’s vanity, selfishness and greed, which our society is ladened with, to accomplish his purpose. Sounds more like Screwtape Letters to me.
—Brett J. Brown
I went to see this movie with a Christian friend and was absolutely disgusted. The movie contains numerous sexual scenes and is very satanic in nature. We ended up walking out of the theater about one-half hour into the movie. Fellow Christians: stay away!
—Robert M. Porter
Your review is (for the most part) right on target. This was a real surprise, an excellent movie, with the exception of Keanu Reeves’s abysmal acting. Pacino chews the scenery (twice) in great scenes with great exchanges like: “Free will?” “Yeah, ain’t it a b*tch?”…Part of the point of the movie, I think, is that Milton realizes this and the futility of his fight, but, in his vanity, can’t stop trying. That’s why vanity is his “favorite sin.” God was certainly present in the church scene, with Pacino playing the rebellious kid—awed and defiant at the same time… And kudos to ANY movie that rewards at least a passing knowledge of classical literature (e.g., Paradise Lost) with inside jokes and references.
—James, age 35
In as few words as possible, “Stay clear of this one.” I do not need to grieve my spirit to educate myself in the power and charisma of Satan. This is just another example of the enemy using a medium to blaspheme the Glory, majesty and victory of God. The scriptures tell us to avoid the mere appearance of evil. I voluntarily placed the Temple of God in this setting. We live in a perverse society, We must limit the shots we give the enemy! P.S. My wife and I walked out and asked for our money back!
—Al D. Squitieri
The movie was well-made, with great suspense, and a frighteningly real portrayal of the devil and how he works. Having said that, I would not see this movie again or recommend it to anyone. Not only is it loaded with nudity and sexual content throughout, but it portrays very disturbing sexual images (blood, monsters, hallucinations) and very disturbing sexual relationships (incest, rape, adultery). This movie was no fun at all. It still makes me shudder.
—Tami, age 42
I, too, found this movie to be exactly as depicted by the reviewer. It certainly shows the Devil’s hold over this world and how vain we all are. Only by giving our will completely over to God is there hope. This is in regards to the one comment listed after the review. You are right that Jesus was not depicted outrightly as the reason Kevin chose to do right, but you must remember that he did have a Christian upbringing. What is behind moral choice, if not God?
—Mary Kercher
I feel that your “Reviewer”, missed the key ingredient in this film. The metaphorical use of the Christian mythological creations of Satan and God in this setting of the American Legal system. Did you Notice that Al Paccino played BOTH sides of the same coin. I think your reviewer missed the point of this film all together.
—Dee Max
I have read many reviews on Christian Spotlight, and this is the most on-target review I have ever read. This movie accurately and compellingly presents the clearest view of the Devil I have ever seen on film—he is charming, relentless, and evil to the core. But this glimpse comes at a price—evil is portrayed clearly on film here, too. This film does NOT glorify evil, but there is MORE than enough of it here to make any Christian cringe. The acting is superb, especially the key role of Al Pacino as John Milton, the Devil. Keanu Reeves is passable, and Jeffrey Jones is—well, he’s Ferris Bueller’s principal, no matter what role he’s in. As the reviewer says, the portrayal of Satan is exactly as a Christian would expect—it is in the film’s portrayal of God’s solution to sin that it misses the mark. I’m not talking about Milton’s perception of God—I think that is right on the money—I’m talking about the actual, real God. Milton acknowledges His existence, but He is nowhere to be seen. All of the action and characters on screen belong to the Devil, except for Keanu Reeves' mother—and she wants to run away. It is not the Blood of Jesus that defeats the Devil in this film, it is a human moral choice. While that may have been possible for our first parents, Adam and Eve, only the Christian, empowered by the Holy Spirit, can resist the Devil to defeat Him. And only Jesus Christ will defeat him in the end. God’s solution for the sin problem, Jesus, is curiously absent. Why curious? There are references to anti-Christ, but no (non-profane) references to Christ Himself. A well-made film, difficult to watch, horrifying and scary, but compellingly accurate as to the Devil. The only thing that this film lacks—and sorely—is God.
—Denes House
My husband and I saw this film and we sat through it, utterly horrified yet fascinated at the same time. It was like getting a very good picture of how Satan works right there on the big screen. There were some very important lessons, right there, for anyone to see. First, you haven’t got a chance of resisting Satan unless you belong to Jesus. He is too clever, too manipulative and too knowing of the human heart. The movie also showed how tireless he is in pursuing our ruin. In many cases, he only had to “tweak” these people to get them to destroy themselves. If one way didn’t work he would try another. The sadistic glee he showed rang true to my spirit. Satan, without remorse, must see us pitiful humans as his little sideshow, a feast for him to devour. Am I glad I watched Devil’s Advocate? The jury is still out. The film was so powerful that the images haunt me still. It was very painful to watch. Please pray about it before you go! My husband came away from it with a greater resolve to be aware of spiritual warfare. I resolved to be extremely careful about what I watch from now on.
—J. Shey