Film / The Devil's Advocate

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Kevin Lomax: What are you?

For the trope, see here.

The Devil's Advocate is a 1997 Thriller / Religious Horror film starring Keanu Reeves, Al Pacino and Charlize Theron, and based on a novel by Andrew Neiderman.

It follows the career of a lawyer, Kevin Lomax, as he gets entangled with the demonic forces that are helping him on the road to success. He ultimately faces off against the origin of this positive influence and the horrors of his own origin.

Notable for Al Pacino "CREATING AN ORGY INVOLVING ALL OF NEW YORK CITY!" And that's an understatement.


Provides Examples Of:

  • Adaptation Name Change: In the original novel, Kevin's last name was "Taylor".
  • All Just a Dream: In the final scene, it is revealed that Kevin saw the entire events of the movie in the moment before his career-defining case concerning a child molester.
  • Ambition Is Evil: Kevin's ferocious commitment to winning his court cases results in him defending some rather unsavory characters, and costs him his marriage. He also reveals to Milton that he won all his Florida cases by secretly listening in on how the Jury was deliberating and making the proper adjustments.
  • Amoral Attorney: Satan himself runs an entire corrupt legal office with global connections, composed of immoral humans and his own demons. An explicit example is the protagonist, Kevin Lomax: while he does retain some moral qualms against defending a pedophile in the beginning of the movie, he more or less completely eschews them and becomes this trope.
  • Anti Anti Christ: Kevin is the Anti Anti Christ, while his son with Christabella would be the actual The Antichrist.
  • Archnemesis Dad: Milton is actually Kevin's father.
  • Artistic License Geography: The movie opens in Gainesville, Florida. Specifically, a small rural town that looks nothing like the actual, modern, skyscraper-encrusted college town that is the real Gainesville, Florida, but does look like a one-horse hick town in the middle of nowhere, which was probably the point. Apparently the producers wanted Kevin Lomax to be from a small rural town and picked Gainesville, Florida off of a map at random, not realizing that "small rural town" does not describe Gainesville, Florida, and hasn't for about a hundred years. The Civil War-era "courthouse" where the trial was taking place is actually in a one-stoplight town some 32 miles east of Gainesville, for example; the courthouses in Gainesville proper are all modern, multistory buildings.
  • Asshole Victim: Eddie Barzoon.
  • Big "NO!": Possibly the Biggest No ever. It takes several cuts, several breaths, and causes the guy to burst into flames and then burn or desiccate anyone watching. Of course, this had to be Satan himself.
  • Bishonen Line: At the climax, after erupting in a showy display of power and anger and briefly experiencing an ugly Glamour Failure, Milton sprouts angelic wings and looks just like Kevin but with long wing hair in his true angelic form.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: At the end of the movie, after the reporter turns into Milton, he turns to the camera and says, "Vanity, definitely my favorite sin."
  • Brother-Sister Incest: Satan wants his half-human offspring to mate with each other, as this will create The Antichrist and leave him with someone to manage his affairs on Earth.
  • The Cameo - Sen. Alphonse D'Amato, Ambassador Charles Gagano, and Don King all appear as themselves, and seem to be on very good terms with John Milton. Makes you wonder if anyone told them what kind of movie they were in...If they were told, it's a rather extraordinary case of Adam Westing.
  • Chekhov's Gun: A literal example. Alex Cullen starts carrying a gun after receiving death threats, which Lomax takes from him as it looks like a tacit admission of guilt. It comes in handy in the climax.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: The reporter from the Florida courthouse, who's another face of Satan and is able to manipulate Kevin twice. "Vanity, definitely my favorite sin."
  • Cool Old Guy: John Milton. Sure he's The Devil and even without that, a perfect example of a corrupt Attorney. However, he's suave, persuasive, can speak any language to perfect accuracy and is very rewarding to those that actually impress him. Much of why Kevin manages to get in his good graces so fast, aside from being his son of course; is because he worked for it.
  • The Corrupter: "Free will. It's like butterfly wings: once touched, they never get off the ground. No, I only set the stage. You pull your own strings."
  • Deep South: The movie opens in Gainesville, Florida. Or rather, a small rural town that looks nothing like the real modern, skyscraper-encrusted, college-town Gainesville, Florida, but does look like a one-horse hick town in the middle of nowhere. Apparently the producers wanted a small rural hometown for Lomax and picked Gainesville off of a map at random, not realizing it hasn't been "small rural town" for about a hundred years.
  • Divinely Appearing Demons: Near the end, the Devil is briefly seen as the Angel Lucifer.
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: Satan, whose entire modus operandi is based on hatred, never considered that love would be important to Kevin, and that he'd remember Mary Ann as his best friend rather than as just a sex object and thus reject Christabella. Although it could just be an act to make Kevin feel like the hero, while remaining as morally weak as before...
  • Fan Disservice:
    • Charlize Theron's nude scene also reveals that she's covered in scratches because the Devil spent the afternoon raping her.
    • In the scene in the changing room, the Devil's girls strip down to their underwear while casually making Mary-Anne as uncomfortable as possible and... AUGH! BAD FACE! BAD FACE!
    • Christabella's role in the ending is probably supposed to have this effect, all things considered, but frankly, it's hard to turn a naked, willing Connie Nielsen into a source of disgust.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Milton, while being charming and polite, is also a sadist.
  • Feed Me: Al Pacino's climactic meltdown is magnificent. The part where he seamlessly starts singing "It Happened In Monterrey" in Sinatra's voice somehow ups both the Fanservice and Squick of the scene.
  • Funny Background Event: As Kevin and Milton walk through the streets of New York talking, a delivery man keeps pace behind them for several seconds carrying a box labeled "Halo Illumination."
  • Fur and Loathing: Some ladies wear fur, but as they are part of the law firm (or married to those in it), they are likely evil, or under the influence of evil.
  • Glamour Failure: Probably. When Milton, in his rage, lets out the shockwave that kills his daughter, for a brief moment he's seen through it as an ugly withered ghoul. His true appearence perhaps?
  • Go Out with a Smile: Kevin grins big at Milton just before putting the gun up to his head and pulling the trigger.
  • God Is Evil: Claimed by Milton in the climax.
  • Good Lawyers, Good Clients:
    • An integral part of Milton's master plan: create the most skilled Amoral Attorneys imaginable, put them at the disposal of the most despicable people in the world, and have them use the loopholes in the law to protect the guilty until the world is filled with human monsters, making the world his and his alone.
      Milton: ...Acquittal after acquittal after acquittal until the stench of it reaches so high and far into heaven, it chokes the whole fucking lot of them!
    • At the end of the film, after the Reset Button is pushed, Lomax takes the trope to heart and dismisses himself from the defense of a child molester, which essentially wrecks his career, since it's unethical and illegal for a defense lawyer to do this in the middle of a case without permission by the judge or their client (both of which emphatically do not give it).
  • Half-Human Hybrids: Many of Milton's lawyers (being his bastard children by various women from around the world) are examples of this, and Kevin himself learns that he is one, too.
  • Heel Realization: Kevin has a small one when the FBI agent investigating Milton tells him a child was found in the car of the molester he defended.
  • Heroic Suicide: Kevin kills himself rather than father The Antichrist.
  • Hollywood Law:
    • Kevin's courtroom antics wouldn't exactly pass the bar in reality. Some of it might be justified given the revelations at the end.
    • In the initial case with the child molester he presents some surprise evidence. This should have been presented during the pretrial discovery and would have resulted in sanctions against the defense and possibly a mistrial.
    • Kevin Lomax is established as a Super Lawyer because he's "never lost a case". We're told that in his early career he worked in the local district attorney's office and had a string of 64 straight convictions, and he "didn't plead out often". This would actually indicate that he's a terrible prosecutor. First, prosecutors get to choose their cases, so he could have a string of "sure thing" prosecutions. Second, prosecuting these cases to trial would clog up the court's docket when he should be making plea bargains with the defendants. Odds are, the bulk of his victories would have been mundane cases where the defendant was guilty as hell and took a deal. It's worth noting that some real-life prosecutors trump themselves up by this claim, which usually comes from dropping or taking pleas on any case with a chance of failure. In Milton's rage-against-God speech near the end he even lampshades how impossible it is for a lawyer to have never lost a case and points out how supernatural influences were a factor.
    • Kevin would not be disbarred for his actions at the end of the movie; in fact, he would be required to withdraw in that case as his client was using his services to further a criminal act.

  • Hollywood Voodoo: Kevin's first case with Milton's firm involves defending a man who was caught slaughtering a goat in the practice of Santeria. The actual case (and Kevin's defense of religious freedom) are completely plausible and justified. However, the client's use of a curse against the prosecutor and other hints at supernatural powers... stretches the imagination.
  • Humanoid Abomination: It's Satan, what did you expect? Given the extent of his powers in the film, (not to mention the creepy, writhing statue in his penthouse), his depiction flirts with Eldritch Abomination as well.
  • Identical Grandfather: The Devil's true form as a Fallen Angel has the exact same face as his male offspring. Justified, since he is a divine being and his son a Nephilim.
  • I Have Many Names: Pretty much word for word. Though Milton plays with this a bit. No need for the fancy titles, he just wants Kevin to call him "Dad."
  • Important Haircut: Important, but not at all good. Mary Ann gets a haircut after prompting from Milton, and this just destabilizes her even more.
  • In the End, You Are on Your Own: After Mary Ann kills herself and Kevin realises what he has to do, he heads for the final confrontation on foot, because Manhattan is suddenly and inexplicably uninhabited.
  • Ironic Echo: "Free will. Ain't it a bitch?" Kevin turns it against Milton by killing himself, causing Milton to have a hissy fit to end all hissy fits. "Free will, huh?"
  • Joggers Find Death: When Eddie Barzoon goes for a jog in the park, he doesn't come back alive.
  • Large Ham: "GOD!! IS AN ABSENTEE LANDLORD!!", accompanied by Milking the Giant Cow twice. Al Pacino would only take the part if he got to do a ten minute rant in the film's climax. Which ended up pushing TWENTY. Upon hearing that, the producers must have looked at each other, shrugged, and said; "Do whatever the hell you want, Al."
  • Louis Cypher: John Milton refers to the author of Paradise Lost, the original Sympathy for the Devil poem.
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: Milton is Kevin's father
  • Married to the Job: Before he signs on with Milton, Kevin is heavily invested in his career and his wife is just as enthusiastic about it. Afterwards, well... not so much.
  • Meaningful Name: John Milton refers to the author of Paradise Lost, the original Sympathy for the Devil poem.
  • Nephilim: In the climax Milton not only reveals that he's actually the Devil, but that he's been traveling the Earth to impregnate human women against their will. Kevin and Christabella are his half-human offspring.
  • Nobody Poops: When it is revealed that Milton's home consists of a single room, which appears to be a rather large office, Kevin is surprised and wonders where Milton sleeps and where he has sex. Nobody in the scene ever brings up the question of where Milton relieves himself.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Craig T. Nelson's character is an obvious Expy of Donald Trump.
  • Not Even Bothering with the Accent: Reeves starts off his performance affecting a passable Southern accent, appropriate for Kevin Lomax's Florida background. It vanishes rather quickly.
  • Obvious Second Choice: Evidently the filmmakers wanted to end the film with "Sympathy For The Devil" By The Rolling Stones. It would seen they had to settle for less appropriate "Paint It Black." (your Mileage May Vary)
  • One-Winged Angel:
    • Almost literal, as Milton transforms into a Fallen Angel at the climax (albeit with both wings).
    • His minions, too, occasionally enjoy flashing fanged grins out of their otherwise perfectly human faces.)
  • Post-Rape Taunt: "Well, on a scale of 1 to 10 10 being the most depraved act of sexual theatre known to man, 1 being your average Friday night run-through at the Lomaxes' household I'd say, not to be immodest, Mary Ann and I got it on at about... seven.
  • Pride: The theme of Pride/Vanity as an engine of destruction runs all through the plot of the film, namely because it makes you careless and imprudent or just drags you into the affairs that will surely and painfully bite you in the ass. Even the father of the sin himself is not invulnerable to its pernicious influence. At one point, he describes it as his favorite sin and the most "natural" as it stems from a "love of self".
  • Rage Against the Heavens: Milton's climactic rant, and by extension, his entire existence.
  • Rock Me, Asmodeus!: Averted here, as this version of Satan prefers the show tunes of Frank Sinatra.
  • Sanity Slippage: Mary Ann starts out as much of a go-getter as her husband, but between being becalmed in their huge apartment, the shallowness of the other wives, and the evil surrounding them, she unravels completely.
  • Seven Deadly Sins: The story focuses on Pride for the better part of the film (it is the devil's favorite sin), but the others are represented at various points throughout the film.
    • Kevin lusts after Christabella.
    • He also shows a bit of sloth in not actively doing what he knows is right during more than one case.
    • Greed rears it's head in the riches that Kevin is granted... as long as he keeps bending the rules.
    • It could be said that envy is part of the reason that Kevin goes along with everything. He wants what others have in the field of law. The fame, the riches, the everything. No matter how he has to get it.
    • Lucifer tells him he could have stopped at any point and even gave him multiple options to stop, but Kevin didn't want to, showing his gluttony.
    • Lucifer goes mega wrath after Kevin makes his choice. "Free will."
    • As stated, pride is the whole point. It is the devil's favorite sin. Pleased to meet you, won't you guess my name?
  • Sexposition: While Milton and Kevin have their final dialogue, Christabella undresses herself in order to seduce Kevin. Kevin refuses her. The dialogue continues, while she just keeps standing there completely nude, apparently to give the audience something to stare at while all this talking goes on.
  • Shown Their Work: When Milton loses it after Kevin kills himself, rather than turn into a demon, he sprouts black wings. Satan, by most accounts of biblical lore, was a former angelic being prior to his banishment from Heaven.
  • Slashed Throat: Mary Ann does this to herself . That scene is probably more disturbing than all of the previous face-morphing scenes combined.
  • Super Breeding Program: Satan's big plan is get Kevin and his half-sister Christabella to have sex and conceive The Antichrist.
  • Sympathy for the Devil: Much of Milton's Villainous Breakdown is pretty much played for tragedy. The music alone sounds like something out of a tragic death scene.
  • Ungrateful Bastard: Milton views Kevin this way at the climax, when his plot is foiled by Kevin shooting himself. ("HAVEN'T I GIVEN ENOUUUUUGH?!")
  • Villainous Breakdown: After Kevin kills himself, Milton literally erupts into flames in anger.

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