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The Devil's Own
Starring Brad Pitt and Harrison Ford
Screenplay by David Aaron Cohen, Vincent Patrick, and Kevin Jarre
Directed by Alan J. Pakula

Ah, don't you love these value-filled movies of the '90s? Where a man has to fight for what is right -- protection of family, love of country -- and will do whatever must be done to live the right life. The problem is that, those "values" in any country can cause a man to be labeled a terrorist by the opposite side. His side would call him patriot. The sides in question are found on the coast of Northern Ireland. There a man can spend a good day at work on a fishing boat and come home to his red-headed, freckled children, eating potatoes at the family table. Northern Ireland, where what looks like a Norman Rockwell-in-Ireland version of a Hallmark Card can get blown to bits in four gunshots.

It's a setup pushing close to stereotype that opens The Devil's Own, a well-made thriller of Good versus a different kind of Good; of two Hollywood stars facing off at high noon and letting the story (not the stories about the making of the story) carry the day. I'll get back to that.

The Devil's Own doesn't try to preach that the IRA are the Good guys in Northern Ireland. It drops members of that conflict on the other side of the Great Pond, into the world of a New York city police officer named Tom O'Meara (Harrison Ford). Into the welcoming home of his wife, Sheila (Margaret Colin), and daughters, comes Rory Devaney (Brad Pitt), off the boat and seeking to begin a new life in America, far away from the bloodshed in the homeland. At least, that's what they think.

It's a well known fact that there's a substantial IRA support network in this country. The Feds have been after it for years, locking up alleged money-raising members and pushing the stories to the back pages of the New York newspapers. It is this world that Devil's Own taps for its story. A world where respected politicians raise and launder money; where barkeeps front for arms smugglers.

The Devil's Own doesn't try to make nice with a volatile political situation. There's no question that Rory (aka Frankie Maguire) is a killer. There's no question that the other side of the conflict, in the persona of a British Inspector, is just as murderous.

As hard as it is for me to believe that Brad Pitt could hide from anyone anywhere in the world -- he's just too pretty -- he performs with a better Irish accent than I could ever maintain and delivers his best work to date. For all the stories in the press about Pitt and co-star Ford badmouthing the working script and each other, and about the insane amounts of money The Devil's Own took to make, what makes it to the big screen is a taut and gripping tale of two men, both of whom know what they have to do, and both of whom have values they can and will break to maintain their ways of life.

Ford's character may not have the emotionally solid background that Pitt's does, but he takes what's there -- a nifty subplot about police and duty -- and wrings everything out of it. The main story, of a man defending his family, doesn't take the easy way out. There is no knock down, drag out fight. Instead there's a tense cat-and-mouse hunt, a necessary amount of bloodletting, and a showdown at high sea. Or about as high sea as New York harbor can get.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky a ble to set his own price to The Devil's Own, he would have paid . . .


Let someone else view it as one superstar passing the torch to another. Let someone else talk about production costs. The Devil's Own is a good story, well worth the price (less a bit for the overkill flavoring at the top of the tale). See it, if not for the stars, then for Treat Williams, who is making a new career out of playing smiling, slimy bad guys.

Click to buy films by Alan J. Pakula
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