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Review: Irish have no luck in 'The Devil's Own'

Devil's Own March 27, 1997
Web posted at: 6:15 a.m. EST

From Movie Reviewer Carol Buckland

(CNN) -- "The Devil's Own" illustrates why Harrison Ford and Brad Pitt are stars. Even when the material they are working with is a so-so mishmash, these two are compelling.

The film casts Pitt as an IRA killer named Frankie McGuire, who comes to the United States under an alias to buy Stinger missiles for his cause. An American IRA sympathizer arranges for him to stay with the family of a stalwart Irish-American cop named Tom O'Meara (Ford).

O'Meara has no clue about the real identity of his beguiling guest until it's too bloody late for him to do anything other than try to keep Frankie alive and bring him to justice.

Pitt, Ford keep things moving

The heart of this film is the problematic relationship between Frankie and Tom. While the territory covered is not particularly new (indeed, the conflicts played out are similar to those explored in the much-better "Donnie Brasco"), Pitt and Ford keep things interesting.

Pitt acquits himself extremely well in the flashier role. His Belfast accent is effective (if a bit hard to understand at times) and he lets the deadness of Frankie's soul seep through at even his most charming moments. Ford exudes strength and decency; he also loosens up nicely in the film's domestic scenes.

Alan J. Pakula's direction is uneven; some scenes are overly portentous, others are sloppy in their execution. The last half hour, in particular, is pretty messy.

Characters hampered by weak script

That this production had script problems during filming is no secret. Unfortunately, a lot of the problems didn't get resolved before "The Devil's Own" reached the screen.

The plot gets extremely murky at several points, and a number of secondary characters -- notably Ford's partner (Ruben Blades) and Frankie's female accomplice (Natasha McElhone) -- are a mix of cardboard and cliche.

"The Devil's Own" has some strong moments and will likely burnish Pitt's reputation as an actor and a heartthrob. But it's basically a cut-and-paste bunch of violence and blarney.

While this film runs almost two hours, it seems longer because of the pacing. It's rated R for violence (lots of bullets and blood) and profane language.

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