'The Devil's Own': THR's 1997 Review

The Devil's Own - H - 1997
In short, it never really cuts to the chase until way too late.

On March 26, 1997, Sony Pictures unveiled the Harrison Ford and Brad Pitt thriller The Devil's Own in theaters, where it would go on to gross $140 million during its run. The Hollywood Reporter's original review is below:

Harrison Ford and Brad Pitt make strange bedfellows in The Devil's Own, a beguiling but ultimately leaden tale of moral conflict focusing on an upright Irish cop in New York City (Ford) and a revenge-minded Irish terrorist on a mission to make a violent statement in support of his cause.

Unfortunately, the film is bedeviled by its murky, slow-moving dramatic nature and will be hurt appreciably at the box office after the first weekend of major green based on the attractive pairing of Ford and Pitt. In this heartbreaking old/new yarn, Pitt stars as Rory, a young man who witnessed his father being gunned down at the family dinner table because of his political affiliations (read IRA).

A personable chap, Rory has never gotten over the horror of his father's death and he has become an avenging "angel" of sorts, moving to New York with a false identity and winning his way into the home of an upright Irish-American cop, Tom O'Meara (Ford). Tom is an old-school type guy, a straight arrow who eschews using force even in his capacity as one of New York City's finest.

As a good Catholic with a houseful of daughters, it's not surprising that Tom takes to Rory's company immediately. In steadfast Tom, Rory sees the father he never had. Although this scenario bursts with good male-bonding scenes, as Tom and Rory come to admire and respect each other, the screenplay tends to wallow in these scenes.

In short, it never really cuts to the chase until way too late. Admittedly, the writing is bright, pointing up the respective moral dilemmas as personified by these two very different people, but nothing essentially happens for long patches of the film. The character development, while admirable, tends to subsume this thriller's obvious point of conflict.

Director Alan J. Pakula deserves credit for appreciating the significance of the pairing of these two very different individuals, but, alas, Pakula has allowed the script to stew. Aesthetically, Pakula and the well-chosen production team have swathed the film in a chorus of dark tones, reflective of the harsh and murky moral choices being made.

Special praise goes to cinematographer Gordon Willis for the somber, complex hues and to composer James Horner for the indigenous sadness of the score. Individually, Ford and Pitt are solid.

With his close-to-the-neck haircut and crisp manner, Ford exudes the decency and certainty of a man who has his priorities carefully dotted. When he senses the stiff order of his ways is no longer working, he rallies forth in a decent, resilient manner. As the troubled terrorist, Pitt is strong, charismatic and dangerous, a time bomb waiting to explode.

Other castmembers are well-selected, including Ruben Blades as an police sergeant and Margaret Colin as Ford's rock-solid wife. — Duane Byrge, originally published on March 19, 1997.