Genre. Genre certainly comes in handy when you’re scrolling through Netflix, but sometimes it is difficult to classify a movie. If it includes a number of ingredients, it could automatically be classified as something it is not. And then, there are the instances when a film simply cannot be classified at all. Or, its ingredients categorize it as something quite unique. The Devil’s Advocate, from 1997, is just such an example. How many other movies can you think of that could be described as psychological, supernatural, legal thrillers?
Perhaps that’s why the film wasn’t well received upon its initial release; Roger Ebert, for one, claimed that the whole thing felt disjointed; “the John Grisham stuff clashed with the Exorcist stuff,” and that’s certainly a pit-fall of a movie which tries to do a lot. And, while I think it is fair to say that The Devil’s Advocate is not the perfect film, its uniqueness alone is enough to applaud.
For what it’s worth, the movie has a lot more in common with that other seminal horror film, Rosemary’s Baby than it does The Exorcist; it’s a slow-burn kind of horror, perpetually putting the viewer on guard with the feeling that something isn’t quite right. When the truth is finally revealed, it’s fairly unexpected, but hardly off-putting and feels justified in its craziness. Along the way, Keanu Reeves, Al Pacino, and Charlize Theron turn in excellent performances which elevate the film to another degree turning this thriller into a fascinating morality play.
Come the end of this two-hour twenty minute film with The Rolling Stones’ “Paint it Black” playing under the credits, you are left with the distinct impression that you have seen something one-of-a-kind. While not the ideal example of trailblazing in the film industry, it remains an interesting and engaging experiment nevertheless. The Devil’s Advocate is surely a movie which dares you to classify it so easily.