The Devil’s Advocate
It’s the Devil….
And He Owns a Law Firm!
The title The Devil's Advocate is more of play on words. This movie is not about someone being a “Devil's Advocate” but rather reflects upon the Devil, himself. But, being as this film concerns the Evil One, a person cannot entirely escape asking the question, just what sort of evil is this, and does it bear any similarity the to actual evil in our own worlds and in our own lives?
It’s a world where lawyers are employed by the devil. Young defense attorney Kevin Lomax (Keanu Reeves) is lawyer who can simply not lose. He says, “I am lawyer, I win, that’s my job!” Even with defendants that are obviously guilty, Kevin finds a way to “snake” his way into winning. It is this winning streak that gets the attention of John Milton (Al Pacino), A.K.A. the Devil. All of the sudden, things are looking up for Kevin, who wasn’t doing half bad in the first place. After accepting a job with Milton, he is awarded with a new job, a huge luxury apartment, and all the money he could ever need. Everything is going fine until his wife gets sick, and a little annoying.
In his eyes he perceives it as a sickness, but in her eyes and the eyes of the audience, the fabric of reality is ripping, and demons are leaking in. She watches as Satan plays his hand. All of this extra knowledge is hard to swallow and eventually she breaks down. This is after seeing the unseen and being raped by the Devil. In this movie, not only do they steal John Miltons name, but they also take the theme or idea that, it is “Better to reign in hell, then serve in heaven.” This, ultimately, is what Kevin has to choose between.
Satan as lead attorney of a New York law firm? This movie's premise consists of a play on two
of the most grand clichés in the book: first, that lawyers are the one profession that seems to personify evil in the popular imagination and, second, that larger cities, particularly New York City, is the devils very own playground. Pacino holds forth from his penthouse apartment, overlooking Central Park, and his penthouse office, overlooking the dazzling lower Manhattan skyline. In one of the movie's early scenes, he takes the young, ambitious, upwardly mobile attorney, Lomax out onto one of many rooftop terraces in his domain, and the two engage in verbal repartee that results in Lomax essentially selling his soul to the Devil. From that point on, the film follows the young attorney's downward trajectory as he suffers the consequences of that decision. It is throughout this downfall the devil preys on Lomax. When he feels that Lomax is at his weakest like all great predators, he moves in for the kill. This is best expressed in the climatic scene of the film. In one of the devil’s elaborate schemes, he tries to coerce Lomax into procreating with another one of his children to create the anti-Christ. After which he offered Lomax to rule the world with him as his right hand man in one big happy family. Finally the Devil with reign over the world, and evil shall rule. But once again, the Devil’s plan is thwarted when Lomax realizes the magnitude of his existence and kills himself.
Throughout the film Satan talks down on God. There is a parallel cut sequence of him speaking to Kevin on how God is supposed to protect his people and care for them if they accept Him as their master in their life. Meanwhile it shows a guy who used to work for Milton/Satan being beat to death by some of his minions while jogging. You can feel the emotion Miltons anger with each blow as he speaks during the voiceover. He speaks of how he was taken from his post because he catered more to those below him than the godly figures around him. He found the idea idiotic to place someone or something before yourself that does not even protect you. He claimed to have to the same amount of power as God except he has more fun with it.
The real power of Satan, at least according to the Biblical tradition as mediated across the centuries by Dante, Milton, and many, many others, is that the Devil appears in the forms we would least expect. In fact, the Devil is none other than a fallen angel, as close to God as anyone can be, and Godlike in power, intelligence, imagination, and, of course, creativity. The Devil's true power lies in his ability to make things that are normally very good become the objects of temptation. Note, for example, he tempted Jesus with glory and wealth if he bowed down before Satan (All of the Gospels). In the New Testament temptation story we encounter the truth about evil (Luke 4:1-13). Most often it's not the obvious sins that do us in, it's when we allow those good and wonderful things that are only a little less than God to become objects of worship and adoration, rather than God, that we've lost our souls. And we end up doing all the right things for the wrong reasons and likewise end up doing the most harm when we are most fully convinced that we are doing good. In other words, sin is subtle, far subtler than television preachers, Hollywood moviemakers, or even an Academy Award winning actor like Al Pacino realize. In this particular film Satan is quite easy to pick out boast and shouting his evils ways like a brooding peacock. In the meantime, will the real Satan please reveal himself? Not likely. He chooses to remain incognito in just plain folks like you and me.
(Al Pacino as the Devil):