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‘I’ve never truly, really been faced with a real Faustian pact but definitely there are correlations to Hollywood where you are constantly dicing with the Devil,’ explained Keanu Reeves in an interview with Film Review while promoting his latest movie The Devil’s Advocate in 1997. ‘I’ve had many sort of semi-Faustian pacts in life – you lose or you win. At the end of the day you have to live your life with your decisions.’ The Faust pact he referenced was a piece of German folklore in which a man, eager to achieve all his dreams and ambitions, sold his soul to the Devil in return for riches and power, only for the Devil to finally return to claim him.
The Devil’s Advocate, a blend of yuppie satire and supernatural horror, starred Reeves as an ambitious young attorney who is head-hunted by a powerful law firm headed by the enigmatic and dangerous John Milton, portrayed with sadistic relish by Al Pacino. It was no accident that the story’s antagonist was named after the author of Paradise Lost, a classic poem that explored themes of the Devil and man’s descent into the abyss, a concept that was echoed in both Andrew Neiderman’s original novel of The Devil’s Advocate and the screenplay adapted by Jonathan Lemkin and Tony Gilroy.
Having successfully defended a teacher who had been accused of molesting one of his young students, despite knowing that his client was guilty, Kevin Lomax is invited to New York by one of the city’s leading firms to work on high profile cases. Moving to the big apple with his beautiful young wife Mary Ann, Kevin slowly becomes seduced by the power and glory promised by Milton, while Mary Ann slowly loses her mind as she is haunted by demonic visions.
Despite its intriguing premise, the critical reaction to The Devil’s Advocate was somewhat mixed. ‘While there is no small irony in a big Hollywood film’s finger-wagging about the seductions of wealth and power,’ noted Janet Maslin of the New York Times, ‘Devil’s Advocate does avoid clumsy moralising and old-hat notions of good and evil.’ Roger Ebert was less positive, however, stating that ‘the movie never fully engaged me; my mind raced ahead of the plot, and the John Grisham stuff clashed with the Exorcist stuff. Still, I enjoyed Pacino.’
‘Lomax refuses his Satanic patrimony. After Reeves’ Lomax commits suicide, the penthouse office of John Milton bursts into flames and, through Lomax’s eyes, we see Pacino morph into Reeves,’ explained Ryan Netzley in his essay Is That It? Ethics, Apocalypticism and Allusion in The Devil’s Advocate. ‘The implication appears to be that Satan/Milton/Pacino has been a projection of Lomax’s own internal Satan all along, the unique messianic position of Reeves’ Lomax evaporates, providing us instead with an everyman figure whose cries of conscience mirror our own.’Following on from the recent small screen adaptations of Fargo and From Dusk Till Dawn, The Devil’s Advocate is to provide the basis for a television series under the supervision of producers John Wells and Arnold Kopelson.
NBC will be developing the concept with Warner Bros. TV from a pilot written by Matt Venne, best known for the supernatural horror White Noise 2: The Light and the recent vampire sequel Fright Night 2.
‘The Devil’s Advocate series is produced by WBTV and studio-based John Wells Productions,’ revealed Deadline, ‘with Wells, Kopelson and Andrew Stearn executive producing and Venne, repped by APA, Industry Entertainment and Stone, Meyer, Genow, serving as a co-executive producer.’