The Devil's Own (1997) Poster

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Why must Hollywood meddle in things it doesn't understand?
Howlin Wolf14 May 2001
I say this making no pretense at completely understanding the Irish conflict myself (you'd have to ask someone with experience of Belfast for a more authentic take on the situation), but the irresponsible way the troubles were used here as a backdrop to what is supposed entertainment staggers me. It isn't as if it needed this detail; the terrorist could have been from any unspecified organisation. In the incompetent handling of sensitive issues that the makers really have no idea of, the production team involved in this really have let themselves down. Brad Pitt realised this too late and henceforth disowned the film, a fact which made me admire and respect him even more.

For this I wanted to hate the film, and yet found myself unable to. Beneath the misbegotten attempts at 'political comment', there is a decent little thriller struggling to get out. Pitt is great as the terrorist (dodgy accent aside) and Ford is as reliable as ever in the role of the honest cop. Director Pakula keeps the story moving at all times and stages the action well. Despite all these pluses, I constantly felt uncomfortable at the ways in which the script tried to manipulate my sympathies. While it's not quite enough to make me downgrade the film on an enjoyment level, it loses big points from an ethical perspective. Shame on you Tinseltown.
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Attempts to work on several different levels, and works on none of them
JamesHitchcock18 September 2009
"The Devil's Own" is one of Hollywood's periodical ventures into the murky world of Irish politics. Harrison Ford, who stars here, had five years earlier starred in another such film, "Patriot Games". There is, however, a difference between the two films. "Patriot Games" is an action thriller which simply uses the Northern Ireland situation to provide a motivation for the bad guys; they happen to be Irish Republican terrorists, but they could equally well have been Islamic militants, or Russian spies, or Mafia hit-men, and it would have made little difference to the film. "The Devil's Own", by contrast, aims for something more ambitious.

The two main characters are Frankie McGuire, a member of the Provisional IRA on a mission to New York to purchase weapons, and his landlord Tom O'Meara, an Irish-American police officer. For about two thirds of the film Tom does not know that his lodger is an IRA man; indeed, he does not even know the young man's real name as Frankie is using the alias Rory Devaney. Tom is only enlightened towards the end of the film when he discovers in "Rory's" bedroom a bag containing millions of dollars. (Are the IRA so amateurish that they would entrust the money for their arms deals to a man who then leaves it under the bed in someone else's house?)

His discovery of the truth puts Tom in a difficult position. On the on e hand he disapproves of violence so cannot allow Frankie to go ahead with his plan to buy missiles for the IRA. On the other hand, he does not want any harm to come to the young man, so tries to protect him from the FBI and MI5 agents who are on his tail. (It is quite possible that the British security forces might set up hit squads to hunt down IRA men, but it seems highly unlikely that such squads would be permitted to operate on American soil with the full knowledge and cooperation of the US authorities).

There is also a sub-plot involving Tom's attempts to cover up for his partner Eddie, who has shot dead a criminal who was running from him. Tom tells his superiors that the man was armed, although he had already thrown away his gun before being shot.

I felt, however, that this sub-plot was never properly integrated into the main film. I was not surprised to discover that the film went through several rewrites after the original script was discarded, as it had the feel of a film written by a committee. Each member of the committee, moreover, appears to have had his or her own agenda. One member wanted to make an action thriller, a second wanted to make a political commentary on the Northern Ireland situation and a third wanted to make a character-driven psychological drama exploring Tom's ethical dilemma in having to choose between the demands of friendship and his obligation as a police officer to uphold the law. Eventually the chairman, who had the casting vote, ruled that the film would be a mixture of all three approaches.

There is, of course, nothing wrong with a film which attempts to work on several different levels. The trouble with "The Devil's Own" is that it doesn't really work on any of them. As an action thriller it is too slow moving, with most of the action crammed into the opening and the ending. As political commentary it is too obviously slanted towards a pro-IRA position with a misguided attempt to make Frankie a sympathetic figure. (That is perhaps only to be expected from Hollywood, particularly in its pre-9/11 period. Americans who approve of this should ask themselves how they would react to a British film which tried to glamorise Timothy McVeigh or the Unabomber). As a psychological drama it is dull and the Eddie subplot is never successfully integrated with the main action.

The film was turning out so badly that one of its main stars, Brad Pitt, wanted to leave the set and was only restrained from doing so by the threat of an injunction. Rather surprisingly, therefore, Pitt's performance is one of the better things about this movie. (His Irish accent, too, is quite convincing). He is certainly better than his co-star Harrison Ford who actually described this film as one of his favourites. Although Tom O'Meara is a role of the sort in which Ford normally excels- a decent, solid family man confronted with a crisis- his performance here is a dull, stodgy one, and not one of his best.

Overall, the film is a disappointment, despite its two major-league stars and its major-league director. This was the last film to be made by Alan J. Pakula before his tragic death a year later in a road accident. Pakula was responsible for some excellent films, notably "Sophie's Choice", so it is a shame that his career did not end on a higher note. 4/10
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glennwalsh441 March 2003
This film is just a second-rate thriller which uses Northern Ireland as a convenient backdrop to add colour. Unfortunately, the portrayal of Belfast and the terrorists and intelligence community is stereotypical, romanticised and hugely inaccurate. The gun battle at the beginning is just ludicrous and from then on the film becomes a showcase for nauseating Irish-American 'culture,' all blarney and dreaming of the 'oul country. The acting doesn't help as Ford sleepwalks and Pitt can't maintain the accent. It is possible to make good thrillers set in Northern Ireland which do not dodge the politics and have sensitivity, but none of them have been made by US production companies. 'Harry's Game' is by far the best example, devastatingly accurate closely followed by 'The Children of The North' and the black comedy 'Divorcing Jack' more recently. See these and give this Hollywood rubbish a miss.
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One Sorry Mess
Allie-1811 June 1999
There seems to be a certain template for making "Oirish" movies in Hollywood. Add some or all of the following ingredients to your movie script - Aran Sweaters, a sub-Deliverance rural setting, comely maidens with red hair, a village idiot (teeth optional), impromptu céilís and dancing at the crossroads, priests, drunken violence and the obligatory "Ooh arr, begorrah" accents and you have an Irish film. And if you want some controversy, why not try to tackle the situation in Northern Ireland by adding in some IRA men for good measure. Unfortunately, the Devil's Own has quite a few of the aforementioned clichés in abundance.

It is a great shame that with a cast and director of this calibre, they couldn't have come up with something better. There have been very few, if any, decent films ever made about Northern Ireland and perhaps it's time Hollywood stopped trying to put forward its own take on it, especially when it is as cack-handed as The Devil's Own. Not only is the whole movie grossly offensive to Irish people, and anyone else with a brain, but it is a dangerous message to be sending out to gullible Irish Americans. It's time film-makers stopped buying into the idea that the IRA are noble warriors when in fact they and others of their ilk are terrorists, pure and simple.

Avoid this like the plague. Brad Pitt's accent is the least of the problems in this film. He just isn't convincing as the cold-blooded killer he is supposed to be - he's far too nice. Harrison Ford is his usual reliable self but too much of the movie is taken up with a largely irrelevant sub-plot featuring himself and Ruben Blades as his police partner. At times, The Devil's Own seems like an IRA film mixed up with NYPD Blue.
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It's not an American stoory, it's an Oirish oon!
meisterpuck20 July 2000
A large part of Brad Pitt's genius as a movie star is his ability to pick scripts. "The Devil's Own" certainly indicates a lapse in judgment, but to a Hollywood tough guy, an IRA role is irresistible. You get a leather jacket, a ski mask, a machine gun and a cool accent. The Ulster accent is, as every movie star knows, very easy to master: just randomly scramble your vowel sounds, say "fook's seek" frequently--and you're Oirish!

But far more laughable than the accents are the action scenes, which are so badly choreographed and edited, it's hard to believe the film is a Hollywood product. First there is Sean and Frankie's shootout with "half the fookin' army," which they win. Then they escape because the British forget to watch the back door. Also, there is the mysterious appearance of a vast forest in the middle of downtown Belfast, into which IRA terrorists can easily escape when cornered. Next there is the shootout with Billy Burke, in which Frankie somehow manages to fire three rounds from a double-barrelled shotgun (taking out a sniper who, oddly enough, falls forward from the impact of a shot in the chest), retrieves his pistol and fires the same shot twice--hitting Billy Burke, who for some reason counted to ten before lunging for his own gun.

The biggest mistake was in casting Harrison Ford, a lead man who commands $20,000,000 per film, and putting him in a supporting role, which of course had to be rewritten and elevated to a co-lead. The result: instead of a film about an IRA terrorist who comes to the States to buy munitions (which is a good precept), we get a film about a New York cop who's got an IRA terrorist living in his basement. Anyone who initially proposed such a story to the studio would have been turned down, and that would have been fortunate for all involved.

In fairness to Pitt, he did try to walk away from the project, and in order to save face, ridiculed the movie before it hit the theaters, which suggests that he had more sense than anyone else on the set.
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Better if you do not expect an action (and especially not a thriller) film
BrandtSponseller16 January 2005
As a child in Ireland, Frankie McGuire (Brad Pitt) sees his dad gunned down for his involvement with the Irish Republican Army (IRA). As an adult, McGuire has followed in his dad's footsteps. When the IRA decides it needs more firepower, they hatch a plan that involves McGuire going to the United States to pick up a shipment of Stinger missiles. Through American IRA contacts, McGuire adopts a false identity and housing is arranged with a non-involved Irish family headed by New York City cop Tom O'Meara (Harrison Ford).

There is an impression that The Devil's Own is an action film. The Internet Movie Database has it listed as "Action/Drama/Thriller". Although there are some action elements in the film, this is really a tragic drama, almost in a classical sense, and it's best to approach the film with only that genre in mind. The plot is fairly complex and the film tends to move slowly--much more slowly than a typical actioner or thriller.

The heart of the story is McGuire's relationship with O'Meara and his family. All of the other material--the IRA stuff, the mob and terrorist stuff, the New York City cop stuff, and so on, are not the focus. Those elements are present to help establish characterization, to build the relationship and understanding between McGuire and O'Meara, and to provide a justification for the developments in the film, and particularly the conclusion, which all have poignant things to say about the decisions that we make and why we make them.

The film largely succeeds if seen from this dramatic perspective. It's not quite a 10, however, as it always seems slightly distanced from the viewer. It's an 8 out of 10 for me.

(This comment was originally posted on January 16, 2005 and ended with the above. The following was added much later after reading through some other user comments:) We should not forget that even though it takes elements from the real world to construct its story, The Devil's Own is NOT intended to be journalistic or a documentary. There is no claim that it is giving an accurate portrayal of political situations, and it's not intended to campaign for one side or another in a real-world political situation. This is fiction, folks, and should be judged _as fiction_. For that, you should forget about what you know of the real world, and assess the story, images and sounds you experience from your television. Does the story work as a self-contained entity? Are the performances good? Is it visually attractive/rewarding? Those are the kinds of things we should be judging.

For me, The Devil's Own succeeded as a drama about relationships, with its poignancy arrived at primarily by making two people from very different worlds, with very different outlooks, learn to see things from different perspectives.

That's great if you're very knowledgeable about Northern Ireland in the real world and if you have strong opinions about terrorism. However, your knowledge and opinions on that stuff have nothing to do with this film.
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A romanticised view of a merciless foe
tprb22 October 2000
What is it with American-Irish? Some of their richest and most respectable members have poured millions of Dollars into the IRA, harboured some of their members, idealised the notion of a "fight for freedom". Believe me, as a Scot, with William Wallace et al I've always had a certain affinity for heroes. But the IRA are no heroes. They've become Northern Ireland's drug-dealers, extortioners, gangsters. The people of Ireland as whole have had enough of them and their way of terrorising innocent people. May it be the IRA or the UDP, the notion of a Catholic V Protestant jihad has long ago turned into a simple cycle of self-perpetuating violence. These men and women are no longer anything resembling the oh-so glorious Michael Collins, they are terrorists who don't know when to quit and never knew anything but how to fight. These men aren't the Brad Pitts of the world, nor is the British Army an oppressor anymore (considering that over 90% of the locals support the Army, simply because it provides protection). Yet in 1997 we still got the great toss of this movie, showing us how brave Irishmen fight against an onslaught of British stormtroopers and evil S(I)S men. Somehow it seems that America is hell-bent on keeping up the idea of the stiff upper-lip English villain. May it be The Devil's Own, Braveheart, U-571 or most recently The Patriot, Hollywood seems bent on demonising the US' closest ally, both politically and culturally. I may not be a great fan of the English, but even I know what harm stereotypes can do. Perhaps the writer should have gone out to the streets of Belfast and asked ordinary people what they think of the IRA. Perhaps the writer should have also approached a soldier and asked him what it's like to occupy Northern Ireland. Somehow, I have severe doubts that a movie about the post-WW2 SS-"Werwölfe" guerillas would be quite so romanticised.

And this movie has a Riverdance sequence. Oh please....
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Good Performances, But It Seems A Bit Dated And Too Sympathetic To The IRA
sddavis6328 March 2010
Considering that the era of sectarian violence in Northern Ireland has largely come to an end, and the IRA is rarely heard from anymore (the fight over Northern Ireland's status having been successfully moved by the peace process into the political realm) this movie has a somewhat dated feel even though it's not even 15 years old yet, dealing as it does with a young IRA operative (Brad Pitt) who comes to America to buy weapons for use back home. On his arrival, a sympathetic Irish-American judge arranges to have him stay with a local Irish-American police officer (Harrison Ford), who isn't aware of of the IRA connections. Eventually, the arrangement comes to endanger the lives of the officer's entire family.

I'll grant that the two lead performances were pretty good. Pitt as Francis (or Rory, as he called himself in America) and Ford as O'Meara both seemed to capture their characters quite well. The first hour or so of the movie was rather slow-paced, but it picked up once O'Meara put everything together and figured out what Rory was all about. I was somewhat put off by what I thought was an implicit pro-IRA sentiment in this. At the movie's opening, Francis is sitting at the kitchen table at the age of 8 while his father says grace before a meal, only to have presumably unionist gunmen break into their home and shoot him in cold blood. It seemed to me that this was almost a way of justifying Francis/Rory's later actions, and it's even said at one point that "if I had seen my dad shot dead in front of me ..." Sorry, one can't justify those acts. "I'll do this because you did that," which means that a cycle just gets started that's hard to climb out of. Both IRA and unionist gunmen should have been ashamed to call themselves Catholic and Protestant, their actions having nothing to do with the teachings of Jesus, whom both Catholics and Protestants claim to follow.

Pro-IRA sentiment aside, I still thought this was a rather weak movie, saved somewhat by Pitt and Ford.
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Alan J. Pakula's last film is incredibly disappointing...
MovieAddict201610 March 2004
This is a very mediocre movie, and a bad sign-off for Alan J. Pakula (who died a year later in 1998 from a car crash). Listen to Brad Pitt's awful accent for a few moments and you'll get a clear idea that this film is going nowhere.

It caused some controversy on release because of its simplified view of the IRA/Britain terrorism and some people (particularly Europeans I suppose) took offense to the fact that Brad Pitt's character is given a "motive" for what he does... and the film seems to sympathy with him.

Brad Pitt hated the film and Harrison Ford and him battled on set over who would become the focus of the film itself (apparently Pitt became upset because the script was re-written and his character was given less screen time).

I only recommend it to people who haven't seen many movies. Why? Because then the recycled dialogue, characters, plot, and performances may seem fresh.

But as it stands, "The Devil's Own" is a poor example of mediocre film-making. Or is that a "good" example of mediocre film-making? Whatever it is, the film is not anything special, and certainly not anything that hasn't been done before.
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Not really very good
jmorrison-29 October 2012
The initial problem I had with this film is the fact that an IRA soldier, in New York to buy and transport weapons to bring back to Ireland, would bunk in with an NYPD Sergeant and his family. That sounds like asking for trouble to me. Not a smart move. I can't imagine the IRA sanctioning a rather reckless move like this. The large amount of money Pitt's character was carrying, and the importance of these weapons making it to Ireland had me shaking my head in disbelief that Rory (Pitt's character) would take such a risk of trying to pull this off right under this police sergeant's nose.

Some on this site have complained about Brad Pitt's Irish accent, however I thought Pitt was easily the best part of this film. He succeeded in creating a troubled, but somewhat sympathetic character. It is his performance that I even gave this film a 4. Treat Williams was also very good as the mean, black-hearted weapons contact for Pitt's character in New York.

I had enormous problems with Harrison Ford's efforts in this movie, if "efforts" is the right word. When Ford first burst on to the scene many years ago, he looked like a solid, creative acting talent. However, in recent years, he has taken on this goody-goody, moralistic, cutesy-pie, boy scout character style which he seems to hide behind, and it's just ridiculous, and reflects really lazy acting (see: "Air Force One" and "Patriot Games", to name two). It is truly irritating and disappointing, and brought this movie way down in my view.

I had trouble swallowing the premise, but Ford's performance just made this cringe-inducing to me.
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*** Insert Equally Pretentious Review Name Here ***
Karl Self8 May 2004
Warning: Spoilers
There are a number of Hollywood productions that use a foreign political conflict as a cheap backdrop for an action flick to give it a sense of urgency and authenticity -- many of which, incidentally, Harrison Ford chose to star in (I always get confused and mix up The Devil's Own with Patriot Games and Clear And Present Danger, mainly because Harrison always seems to play the same, generic character with the same, generic wife), but this one manages to take the price for most dubious politics AND being dead boring as well. Quite a number of commentators seem to take the view that "hey, it's not a documentary", but I wonder whether their reactions would have been the same if the "freedom fighter" had been Palestinian ("his father has been killed by the Israelis and now he's out to buy Stinger missiles to fight back against the occupation of his home land") or Iraqi ... I dare say that the reception wouldn't have been quite so sympathetic. As it is, the movie stands for a time before 9-11, when the US position on terrorism was slightly less well defined, if not totally different altogether.

But even taken as mere entertainment, this flick fails miserably. Starting with the preposterous title; then there is only one blood-guns-and-explosions action scene, at the very beginning (noble freedom fighters vs. the Forces Of Evil). Next, both the good guy and his opponent are, ahem, good guys, which necessitates the introduction of some more bad guys to keep the plot moving: namely the weapons dealer (boy, didn't they ever try hard to make him look sinister -- I was already expecting a scene where he serves beer to some college kids without asking to see their licenses first) and Harrison's cop colleague; actually, when he first showed up I thought that he looked somewhat sinister for a good guy --pock marks, greasy hair, Hispanic -- until a bit further in the movie it miraculously turns out that, naturally, he IS a baddie after all! Director Alan Pakula masterfully rounded this off with some of the most nauseating cinematographic stereotypes in the book -- especially the use of quaint Irishy flutes full blast whenever the subject comes to Ireland, but I also found the scene where the two terrorists play war with water hoses quite memorable. In a way I'd wager that because the film tries so hard to cover up its sympathies for the militant Irish Republican cause it derails so badly in the entertainment department.

But like I said, this movie is quite interesting, if only for historical and political reasons. Nowadays you it would be impossible to produce a movie which so blatantly justifies terrorism (now that the US have become the victim) or that portrays the British so badly (now that they have become allies #1). Watch this as an example for how quickly attitudes can change.
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Offensive In The Extreme
Theo Robertson11 July 2002
THE DEVIL'S OWN is an extreme film . Extremely bad that is , and also extremely offensive to anyone to have known the sorrow of the " Troubles " . I'm still trying to work out what the most unlikely bit of the film is , the British MI6 agent who's the baddie or the battle scene at the start of the film . I'll go for the battle scene that leaves several Brits and IRA men dead . I was going to type terrorists instead of IRA men but THE DEVIL'S OWN doesn't really consider the IRA to be terrorists , more like feisty freedom fighters who like to take on the fascist British Army in a toe to toe battle that resembles the battle of Mogadishu. Well if you can be bothered to look up the death toll for September 1992 you'll find that a total of 8 people ( That's eight real people - not Hollywood extras ) died in the troubles that month , all civilians . There's also something disgusting about the fact that we see hunky Brad Pitt - Who cannot do an oirish accent at all - playing another IRA man . Why do Hollywood movies always cast a hunk like Sean Bean or Richard Gere as an IRA man ?

If you're confused by my disgust at THE DEVIL'S OWN well imagine this : A film starring hunky George Clooney as a freedom fighter for Al Quida who's on a mission to buy stinger missiles to shoot down American helicopters in Afghanistan and it's up to a murderous agent from the fascist CIA to stop him by liquidating the gallant freedom fighter . Do you think Hollywood would produce something like that ? I rest my case
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Thriller With Northern Ireland Backdrop
wc1n3xx12 November 2001
I'm sure that many viewers will point out with venim that the film was inaccurate with regard to the conflict in Northern Ireland, as well as Brad's accent, which, personally, I thought he had put some work into.

The film is basically a thriller using the N.I conflicts as a backdrop to generate the pathos for the film; so anyone watching it to see an angle on the troubles will be disappoiinted.

However it gave Pitt a chance to show off his ability to be directed and follow staged fight scenes. He was his usual brilliant self at emotional expression.

The purpose of his journey to The States was almost glossed over with the film relying on the first few scenes to show why he had such a vengful purpose.

The title of the film is fairly misleading, as it serves only as an extra tag line. This is NOT a deep or meaningful film in any way, nor does it contain much accurate historical fact. The 'morphing' of the young boy after seeing a close family member being shot was a little hurried, but served to get you into the rhythm of the film.

As there were very few people actually hunting or chasing him on screen except for Ford, his worth for information/intelligence as far as those around him were concerned was almost nil.... but his intentions were far more sinister.

Maybe the point of the film was to demonstrate that to win the cause closest to your heart or carry out duty through conscience or revenge, you may have to kill the person who gets in your way. Either way the wasting of a life comes down to the same thing no matter how it's done.

I realise that it must have been a rather insulting film to those close to the troubles, in terms of trivialisation and attitude, but to repeat my earlier comment, the title of the film was a little misleading, and it may have given rise to higher expectations.

However Pitt's accent wasn't that bad, and his mannerisms were clearly worked on, and all in all the film was entertaining.

At least the film allowed you to reach your own conclusion at the end, and didn't particularly force any political points on the viewer.
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From my review site
Craven-312 January 1999
Now first of all I am not a Brad hater. I rather think he is quite a good actor. He shows good potential. As for Harrison Ford well the man is an icon. I have hardly ever left the cinema during a film but with this one I did.

Now as for why I really dislike this film.....First of all the accents. Oh please! Brad has as much an Irish accent as I do a Jamacian one. I was hoping that they would have asked me to be his voice double but for some reason they did not?? Ok next the story: Hollywood has a lot to answer for but their handling of a very volatile situation (to say the least) was equivalent in trying to make a world war 2 movie with Hitler as a tragic hero. I could go on being real political but I am not going to so there.

What else? Ehhhmmmm I am not too sure as I walked out after 35 minutes so that is all I have to say.
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Shoddy, ill conceived excuse of a political thriller
pyrocitor23 July 2006
With two such stars as Harrison Ford and Brad Pitt attached to the project, and a political hitch to the storyline involving the Ireland terrorism subplot, The Devil's Own seemed poised to be the year's most powerful and thought provoking, as well as probably very entertaining and income churning action film. Strangely enough, despite all of these advantages aiding the movie, and it still turned out to be just a step above what one could generously call terrible.

The Devil's Own sports every possible modern storytelling cliché, the worst being the families shown at home in domestic life, which might as well have been cut out of a magazine they are so clean cut and utterly devoid of any sort of believability or imagination. (the scene with Brad Pitt's character's family as a child is painfully awful, the most unbelievable portrait of an on screen family I have seen to date) It goes without saying that the horribly americanized perception of Ireland and Irish customs is downright insulting, as is often the case, but it seems so much more defined and offensive here.

Director Alan J. Pakula seems to be trying to make three different movies in one, and have absolutely no idea as to how to tie them together or maintain any sort of continuity or plot flow. The Ireland subplot is likely meant to provide motivation for Brad Pitt's IRA terrorist character, but seems completely at odds with the story of Harrison Ford's painfully stereotypical "troubled, world weary cop" character back in the States. The concept of the terrorist just by chance happening to go and stay at the house of the police officer who is hunting him down is just plain unbelievable, and doesn't come off as at all clever and ironic as the screenwriters intended it to be. Instead, it is groan worthy, as are most of the incredibly contrived "plot twists" and goings on in the story.

Even on the acting front, the shoddy storytelling comes across. Despite the two major action stars being lined up, both give completely unremarkable and even downright bad performances, and there is the constant storytelling conflict as to which of them is the main character, as if the writers themselves could not decide as to which character was meant to be the protagonist. The rumour that Pitt had serious conflicts of interest with the director and script and in fact tried to dissociate himself with the film shines clear, as he seems to put next to no effort into his performance (his Irish accent is cringe worthy, one of the worst attempted accents in film history to date, which is ironic considering his hilarious performance as an Irish Gypsy in "Snatch" 3 years later) as if he just wanted to film his scenes and leave. One can't blame him, as it seems he was the only one in the whole film who seemed to understand how badly the film was turning out to be.

But Ford, the other bankable action star seems to at least be putting some effort into a believable character, but his policeman character seems so dull and uninspired that we as an audience find it completely impossible to empathize with him in any way. The supporting characters seem to be extras rented off the street for all the acting experience they seem to have at all, and most supporting characters seem barely necessary for the progression of the horribly weak storyline at all. (one still wonders at the end what was the point of including Natascha McElhone's character - a potential love interest for Brad Pitt left half written perhaps?) It's just another front on which the movie demonstrates how little substance there is to it at all, and how weak and clichéd it really is.

Overall, it seems fair to say that you should not consider The Devil's Own exactly recommended - not to those who would rather enjoy themselves watching a movie anyway. For those who have a preference for weak, extremely poorly and disjointedly written scripts with completely archetypal characters, lazy and absent minded directing and even some good old fashioned bad acting, you have found your movie. But there are so many other suspense thrillers out there, superior in almost every aspect, so when looking for an enjoyable movie to rent, it would not seem at all presumptuous to pass on The Devil's Own, leaving it to fall back into the domain of poor movie hell in which it belongs.

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A shamelessly simplistic film that is offensive in its depiction of the Northern Ireland situation and also a flat and boring piece of "entertainment"
bob the moo19 April 2005
Having become public enemy number one thanks to his murders of RUC, Army and Loyalists alike, Francis McGuire is being hunted by the British Army. With his freedom-fighting brothers being executed by the cruel and ruthless British, Francis has NO CHOICE but to illegally travel to America in order to purchase Stinger missiles from Afghanistan to use them to bring about a United Ireland by blowing up British helicopters. Being put up by family man and cop Tom O'Meara, Francis makes his connections but "they" are closing in on him while Tom also starts to suspect something is up.

In America, many seem to have an idealised view of Northern Ireland and perhaps do lots of things in their minds to justify (or just ignore) the terrorism that occurs there but even Pitt saw this film as "a mess" and "the most irresponsible bit of film-making – if you can even call it that – that I've ever seen" and trust me when I say that he isn't wrong at all. From the very start, those with any sort of knowledge or understanding of the NI situation will recognise some perversion of facts in the running gun battle that occurs and the way that senior British officers simply execute a prisoner. You could be mistaken for hoping that this was a one-off but the entire film is sympathetic to terrorism and never misses a chance to twist reality, justify it or simplify when it can. In case I'm accused of being a typical Prod and anti-IRA, I would like to point out that terrorism on both sides of the divide is unacceptable and is nothing about "fighting for independence" or any other such wonderful ideals – in fact in the past few years the victims are mostly within the groups' own community and the "action" is more about crime such as drugs etc.

It is only slightly interesting to view in this the light of events since 11th September and the recent murder of a catholic man by the IRA over a minor barroom squabble. Can you imagine this film being made about a man from the Middle East who turns to terrorism against the West due to events he witnesses – can you imagine such an idea ever being OK'd? Hopefully the recent murders, punishment crimes and the massive bank robbery will have served to show the US that Northern Ireland terrorist groups are no different, regardless of what this film tries to show. The bias and care taken to win the extremist support is even shown in how the film has an entire subplot with Tom's partner and a bad shooting to show how Tom will turn his back on people when it is "the right thing to do" – thus in part excusing him for eventually having to take a stand against Francis and, by default, the IRA.

Maybe it is unfair to rip at this film for being totally irresponsible, insulting and truly offensive to me personally and the thousands who have died and the countless who continue to suffer under the self-proclaimed authority of these groups; no, maybe it is unfair to watch this as anything other than the piece of entertainment that it is. However even on this level the film is rubbish; it drags, has no sense of realism, nothing to emotionally involve you in the characters and a total lack of pace. The action is overblown, stupid and lacking excitement; meanwhile the narrative is plodding in both development and delivery.

With all this going on and the rumours of massive onset fights, one could perhaps forgive the cast for being awful but what can't be forgiven is Brad Pitts' accent. It is about the worst I've heard and those who defend it have simply not talked to enough people from Northern Ireland. It's only one of his problems though and he can't make a character that works out of the mess he has been handed. Ford is sturdy and seems to be off in his own little movie for part of the film – in fairness he is probably the strongest bit of the film but that isn't saying a lot. Support from Blades, Williams, McElhone and others all comes to nothing and they certainly can do nothing to stop the rot.

Overall this is a terrible film that is not only a poor piece of entertainment but an offensive treatment of a complex situation that involves politics and terrorists. I won't harp on about it but I hope that those who think I'm over the top will stick with me for one more moment. During September 1992 (when the film shows a raging gun battle between the evil army and a band of freedom fighters/IRA) the following people lost their lives in the struggles (ages in brackets): Peter McBride (18), Samuel Rice (30), Charlie Fox (63), Tess Fox (53), Michael Macklin (31), Leonard Fox (50), Gerard O'Hara (18) and Harry Black (27). All of these 8 people were civilians. One of them was a suspected member of a terrorist group and one was a former member of the UVF but the other six had little or no connections (Charlie & Tess Fox were shot because their son was in the IRA). Only one of the 8 was killed by the British Army and, to counter the depiction of the British officer coldly killing the terrorist without any comeback it should be noted that the shooting of McBride by a UK soldier ended with the two soldiers involved being sentenced to life in prison. Be careful of what Hollywood feeds you – have your own mind…these are real people, not an action movie.
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An obvious trap
gjlmovie471114 January 2002
Given the plot (IRA-terrorism and its liaisons with the US) this film must be judged at two levels. The first level is that of the entertaining value. Pakula borrows a heavy political theme, simplifies all and everyone and makes out of it a 2 hour show, including a bag pipe score and all the other cliches you can possibly think of ("My father was a fisherman"). At this level, the film deserves 7 out of 10. In some comments the heroism in this film is convicted. There I agree. We now come to the second level. This is not a serious movie about the IRA and its "politics", simply because it's naive and CONSCIOUSLY simplifies complex matters. More over, the whole matter is brought over to the US, where it looses all sharp edges. What we actually see is an action movie with a nice, good looking guy who, for the sake of us all, kills an illegal weapon deliverer. We forget that he (i.e. we don't forget, it's Pakulas way of portraying his main character) actually is a real IRA-terrorist - a brain washed brutal soldier murderer, thinking this is a way of serving justice and truth. Hollywood, in the end, makes them all look bad. Pakula is no exception.
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Alan J Pakula's disappointing swan song
dbdumonteil20 March 2004
Alan J Pakula made a name for himself thanks to the stunning thrillers he made in the seventies such as "Klute" (1971), "the Parallax View" (1974), "All the President's Men" (1976). Alas! More than twenty years after the release of these movies and at the screening of "the devil's own", this director seems to have lost his talent and inspiration.

First, "the devil's own" features two Hollywood monsters: Brad Pitt and Harrison Ford but Pakula badly manages them. You are under the impression that he wanted to balance their respective sequences so that each of them has his own equal part on the screen. A particular moment clearly shows it. The day after Pitt's arrival in the USA, he comes into contact with the arms dealer Billy Burke to purchase missiles. Pakula alternated this moment with a sequence aiming at showing Ford in his role of bold cop. This demonstrative side is useless for the plot. On another hand, Pakula steeped his movie with sentimental romance for Pitt and Ford. Even if this latter point is only a detail, it makes the movie uninteresting by endowing it with a somewhat Hollywood character. It goes to show that counting exclusively on two famous actors to save a movie is not sufficient. It can even hinder its success.

The disappointment of "the devil's own" also comes from the fact that not only is Pakula powerless to try something new but he is also unable to renew the detective movie. He exploits without any major surprise, a few themes with overrated reputation. You can also detect in it a lack of relief: the IRA subject is barely sketched out. Then, the relationships between the characters often boil down to a series of looks that speak volume, of pistol shots, of weak dialogs. Let's add that the movie accumulates the stereotyped characters, the predictable sequences. All these shortcomings reveal Pakula's lack of investment in his film.

"The devil's own" is the final movie of a weary filmmaker. It is a pity to see him leaving the cinema on a disappointing movie, (he was to die one year later in a car crash).
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Sinfully bad
inspectors7116 January 2006
I saw this ridiculous nonsense on NBC five years ago, chopped up for telecast, and so bad that two hours of advertisements for furniture at Penney's and previews of Friends (or reading the bloviating message boards for this movie) would have been better. The story is so much pro-terrorist Hollyweird mush with Brad Pitt as a killer-looking IRA gunman hiding out in America while speaking some sort of language loosely based on English and Harrison Ford, grumpy and spikey-haired, wearing a policeman's uniform, slowly--very slowly, mind you--figuring out that there's a bad man living in his basement.

Even with the bloodletting trimmed for telecast and the inherent fragmentation of television working for you, not against you, you get the feeling that everyone involved, including the late, great Alan J. Pakula, would rather forget this bloody, incomprehensible, incoherent junk. Once again, the Left Coast has turned a complex, grey-shaded, and achingly tragic issue into a cutesy-wretched, terrorists-are-just-misunderstood, amoral mess.

Skip it however it comes.
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Hollywood Whitewash for Murdering Psychopaths
Alex-Tsander10 April 2005
I would like to think that this film could not have been made in the form it takes since 9.11. Now that Americans have a vague idea what it is like to run the risk of being blown apart each time you go into any town centre. A feeling everyone who in the Britain lived with for thirty years, regardless of nationality, age or politics. Anyone in a British city ran the risk of being blown apart by an IRA bomb. Like the truck bombs detonated in London and Manchester by the IRA at about the time this film was set.

I certainly hope that it would not now be made since the murder of Robert McCartney by IRA psychopaths forced a few more Americans to question the nature of the gangs they have been funding for decades.

Would it be beyond reason to hope that Brad Pitt and Harrison Ford would now, with hindsight, feel less than comfortable with the two set-speeches in this movie in which they more or less state that IRA killers are really helpless victims who have no choice about what they do?

Then there is the battle near the start of the movie: A couple of heroic IRA killers mowing down soldiers and police in a glorious outnumbered stand. The FACT is that there were never any such battles in Ireland. The "heroic" IRA never tried to take on the security forces directly. Sure their courageous snipers picked off individual foot-soldiers from a mile range using the Barret Light.50 sniper rifles donated by American supporters. But their only real targets have always been unarmed civilians. Of which they have murdered thousands more than they ever have soldiers and police.
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All concerned should be deeply ashamed...
SDN-224 November 2001
I recently saw this film for the first time on television. Despite a lot of stiff competition, it managed to take the top spot in the 'Worst Ever Film About Northern Ireland' league. You'd think that the tortured history of my country would provide great inspiration for Hollywood, but the number of films about Northern Ireland that have raised themselves above the level of dire can be counted on one hand.

It's the pandering to the most bigoted elements among the Irish-American community that really drags films like this down. If you were to fill the gaping holes in the political accuracy of The Devil's Own, you'd be left with a just about competent thriller. Pitt's accent isn't that bad, the script isn't the worst ever, but let's face it, this is no classic.

Throw in a staggering lack of sensitivity to the issues with which it deals, and you've got one of the very worst films I've ever seen. The so-bad-it's-funny closing line of 'We had no choice, you and I' doesn't ring quite true. Pitt and Ford could have chosen to give this movie a wide berth. I could have chosen to watch something else instead. If only we always made the right choices...
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Sad end to a career
HEFILM12 March 2005
Two good actors turned into two difficult stars and director Pakula was left with little to do but make a boring mess of a film. Neither actor seemed willing to be outdone by the other for screen time or audience sympathy so you're left with no real hero no real villain and no real movie. Neither of these actors are at their best when doing accents, even subtle ones and for some reason the Irish "troubles" have rarely made for good Hollywood based films. Pakula, like Hitchcock liked to hold shots without cutting and at his best used unconventional framing and odd pacing to great affect. Here he doesn't get to demonstrate much style other than long boring shots where nothing is really going on script wise. A real waste of time and a sad final film for a director who,this time at least, didn't have a chance against the Hollywood star system that has increasingly lead to many films since this one with powerless first time directors directing traffic on set rather than guiding a film beyond delivering flattering angles of the stars whose faces make up all poster art these days.
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gcd7024 March 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Meaningless film from the otherwise formidable paring of director Alan J. Pakula and Harrison Ford takes a weighty subject and does nothing with it. Any flick about the terrorist activities of the IRA and the people within the organisation, has the potential to be explosive. Not this pedestrian plot concerning a young activist hiding out in the home of a respectable cop while making arrangements to ship a large amount of explosives back to the mother land.

With so little to work with, both Brad Pitt and Harrison Ford have to dig deep to keep the audience interested. Brad's young IRA lad, full of angst and vengeance, is brought to life quite well by a youthful thespian whose future is bright. Harrison Ford only needs appear on screen to grab your attention, and his world weary sergeant is worthy of note. These two struggle throughout the movie to keep the story above mediocre.

If you tell a story, have a point. There are few exceptions to this rule; this was not one of them.

Saturday, January 2, 1999 - Video
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What's the Point? Does This Reveal, Incite, Question? Inspire? Horrify? Anything?
secondtake29 May 2009
Warning: Spoilers
The Devil's Own

Alan J. Pakula makes films with strong, sometimes sensational, social content--Nazi cruelty, Irish nationalism, corruption, conspiracy. He doesn't always pull off a masterpiece of "cinema" in all those usual ways, but they rarely lack for interest, or at least scenes of interest.

The Devil's Own is in some ways typical. It is filled with possibilities, and great ones. If Parallax View and Klute have a larger following, and Sophie's Choice the weight of a great novel behind it, it shares with them all an occupation, possibly a preoccupation, with plot, and the meaning behind the plot. That is, events following events, one thing leading to another.

Gordon Willis is a great cinematographer, responsible for some of Woody Allen's best films as well as all three Godfathers. And for this last film in his career, he is pressed into service, and makes the fighting and the lulls (there are both, but more lulls) both dramatic and beautiful.

But to what end? I found it actually dull--boring--after awhile, and I know it isn't because of sympathy or lack of sympathy, because I have both. It's still a movie, and has to survive even in different contexts--different countries, different living rooms-- regardless of persuasion. And this particular movie also become thankfully historical and past tense--the early paramilitary violence and brutality, hopefully exaggerated for the film because it sometimes seems really chaotic and endless--so has lost a little of its edginess. The conflict in Northern Ireland really is far less destructive than it was, and less a tinderbox.

Harrison Ford? Brad Pitt? Well, these seems odd choices for what is a terribly gutwrenching Irish topic. It is action-adventure, and yet it clunks along. Far from worthless, the movie still ironically has less force behind it than it requires. The topic deserves better.
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Do not Watch this Movie
kevino-922 November 2006
This movie was set up to be a great one. Brad Pitt and Harrison Ford. You would like to think that this had to great actors and a good story line. Well, after 20 minutes your ready to turn this off. It starts out pretty fair but after the first 5 minutes you are ready to go watch reruns of the Brady Bunch. This movie is so boring that you start fast forwarding hoping to get to a part that has a little bit of story to it. This movie is made for the sole purpose of putting you to sleep. The ending to this movie is worse than the movie itself.I waited for some kind of climax and it never came. The only climax to this movie is when you hear the DVD hit the bottom of your trash can. I would rather go to the dentist and get my teeth pulled out than watch this so called movie. I think it is one of the all time worst movies ever made. Do yourself a favor and do anything and I mean anything than watch this movie.
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