Viking Night: The Devil's Advocate
By Bruce Hall
April 21, 2015
This just in - Keanu Reeves is a damn good actor.
No, seriously. I am not on drugs, and I have not been possessed by Satan. The Devil’s Advocate is an often overlooked film that gets attention mostly for Al Pacino’s now legendary act three monologue. But if you take the time to revisit the film (and are willing to endure a lot of mind numbing cliché and painfully obvious plot twists), you will experience a pretty solid (if occasionally uneven) psychological thriller. And it’s one that takes particular glee in reminding us that there’s very little difference between lawyers and megalomaniacal hell-beasts bent on human suffering and world domination.
But you already knew this. What you probably didn’t know is that holy crap, Keanu Reeves can act!
Keanu appears here as Kevin Lomax. He’s a faintly smug, ruthlessly efficient trial lawyer from Podunk, Florida. Kevin is young, handsome, massively confident and of course, has never lost a case. But while he’s known as a shark in the courtroom, he’s deeply attached to his beautiful wife Mary Ann (Charlize Theron). The young couple struggles to make ends meet, but they’re deeply in love and very interested in starting a family - as would we all, if we were married to Charlize Theron. Kevin’s mother (Judith Ivey) is a doting, slightly eccentric spinster who spends most of her time at church. She’s a preacher’s daughter, born and raised on Scripture. She has passed her encyclopedic knowledge of the Good Book on to her son, who as you can probably guess is something of an agnostic.
That’s probably how he’s able to take the cases he does. Kevin routinely defends clients whom he knows are guilty as all hell. Driven to succeed at all costs and fiercely protective of his perfect record, he goes out of his way to spring an especially loathsome child molester, going so far as to browbeat the traumatized young victim on the stand. Kevin knows the man is guilty, and is barely able not to vomit all over himself after the acquittal. But his record is intact, and all it takes is a pint or two of liquor to convince himself that nothing else matters. This is where he is when the prestigious law firm of Milton, Chadwick & Waters pulls up outside the bar with a dump truck full of cash. They appreciate Kevin’s talent for moral diffusion, and are eager to enlist his assistance springing the biggest dirtbags Manhattan has to offer.
At first, Kevin and Mary Ann are swept away by the opulence of their new lifestyle, and enchanted by the Firm’s senior partner, John Milton (Al Pacino). Milton is an urbane, multilingual dynamo of prosperity who seems to have unlimited money and resources. With his favor, combined with Kevin’s talent for stacking juries and obfuscating the truth, the young attorney’s rise to power is as meteoric as it is improbable. Scant weeks after leaving his old life behind, the Lomaxes have moved on up to a de-luxe apartment in the sky. And Kevin has gone from defending backwater rapists to batting for New York's most prestigious millionaire murderers. And, he's practically Milton's right hand man.