(director: Taylor Hackford; screenwriter: Tony Gilroy/Jonathan Lemkin/from a novel by Andrew Neiderman; cinematographer: Andrzej Bartkowiak; editor: Mark Warne; music: James Newton Howard; cast: Keanu Reeves (Kevin Lomax), Al Pacino (John Milton), Charlize Theron (Mary Ann Lomax), Jeffrey Jones (Eddie Barzoon), Judith Ivey (Alice Lomax), Tamara Tunie (Jackie Heath), Craig T. Nelson (Alexander Cullen), Connie Nielsen (Christabella), Debra Monk (Pamela Garrety), Neal Jones (Larry – Florida Reporter), Ruben Santiago-Hudson (Leamon Heath), Christopher Bauer (Lloyd Getties), Heather Matarazzo (Barbara), Delroy Lindo (Phillipe Moyez); Runtime: 144; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Arnold Kopelson/Anne Kopelson/Arnon Milchan; Warner Home Video; 1997)
“Couldn’t be more ridiculous.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A supernatural potboiler involving the trials of being a lawyer that couldn’t be more ridiculous. Taylor Hackford(“An Officer and a Gentleman”/”Parker”) directs with nuance and skill to maneuver around parts of the story that just are too absurd to be credible. It’s based on the novel by Andrew Neiderman and is surprisingly well-written by Jonathan Lemkin and Tony Gilroy, since the film is so trashy.

The hotshot young Gainesville, Florida defense lawyer Kevin Lomax (Keanu Reeves) has never lost a case.While defending a teacher (Christopher Bauer) he knows is guilty, who is accused of molesting an underage pupil (Heather Matarazzo), Lomax wants to win so bad he uses a trick-bag of lawyer guile to destroy the girl’s case. He’s then recruited with flattery and a big paycheck to a big NYC law firm headed by the manipulative megalomaniac John Milton (Al Pacino). Lomax and his beautiful wife Mary Ann (Charlize Theron) are enticed to move to Manhattan and work for the powerhouse firm. But as the tempted Lomax experiences the challenges of being a wealthy New York attorney, which includes a luxury apartment on 5th Avenue and a sexy colleague (Connie Nielsen), something changes inside him and he at last heeds the warnings of his Bible-spouting mom (Judith Ivey) warning him that the Devil resides in the Big Apple. His wife starts to deteriorate mentally, as he increasingly neglects her for his work. As Lomax gets closer to the charismatic Milton, he learns that his boss is The Devil. Milton claims his diabolic work is a natural for the lawyer profession. Moreover, he wants Lomax as his successor. Lomax, I’ll say, now has some serious decisions to make and must decide if he wants to resume his practice with a conscience or continue to defend ruthless scoundrels. One of the problems is it takes the lead an awfully long time to work out his dilemma and by the time he works it out, in this over-long film, my attention was long lost. The other problem is it plays games with what we are seeing and leaves us with an unwarranted rosy finale gained from fooling us.

It’s perhaps best noted for the Pacino soliloquy he delivers at the end about God as an absentee landlord. But I think a more subdued performance by Reeves as the Everyman is better received than Pacino’s over-the-top strained one.