I’ve long been a fan of Harrison Ford, and I quite like Brad Pitt, so it came as something of a shock to find that they’ve both appeared in a movie I’d never seen.
But now I’ve experienced The Devil’s Own, a deeper understanding of this cinematic void was revealed to me in all its catastrophic glory. This is a purulent movie where a supposedly serious subject gets the sort of treatment that I’d of expect from The ‘A’ Team.
Pitt is the implausibly attractive republican freedom fighter intent on punishing the British with some Stinger ground-to-air missiles once he’s got them out of America. Ford plays the fly in this particular ointment as the one-good-cop of Irish ancestry determined to stop him. If this sounds shallow to you, then you’ve got a hint about what this movie delivers, which is very little indeed.
I can’t resist mentioning Brad Pitt’s Irish accent, which depending on how generous you want to be is geographically somewhere between North Belfast and Disney’s Darby O’Gill & the Little People. He tries hard with it, but let’s be honest, Brad – you’re not a character actor, so why did you sign up for this?
Actually, Pitt’s involvement that’s a whole new issue, because he clearly doesn’t care for Harrison Ford, and the feeling appears mutual. The end result is a horribly ‘movie-by-numbers’ mess that does nobody any favours. According to IMBD he described this production as a “disaster”, and said that “it was the most irresponsible bit of filmmaking – if you can even call it that – that I’ve ever seen. I couldn’t believe it”
The characters are cardboard, especially Pitt’s, whose motivation doesn’t go beyond what we’re presented in the first five minutes. Ford’s character isn’t much more rounded, taking the cop-with-a-heart to new levels of schmaltz.
A deeper insight to what happened with The Devil’s Own might have come from a commentary track. We’re warned at the start that the contents of this track are the opinions of those talking and not Sony the company. That’s great, because on this disc there is no commentary. The entire ‘extras’ are the trailers for Close Encounters and the Jane Austen Book Club, the connection of which to this movie are obvious to someone else but me.
On the upside, the quality of the transfer is rather good, and shows how hard the cinematographer worked to make this complete rubbish look acceptable onscreen.
In retrospect the film offers a view of the terrorism that, in a post 9/11 world, seems remarkably naive even by Hollywood standards. But, given all the issues it has, perhaps that aspect is a nugget of historical interest and not the worst thing about it.