Movie Review - Devil's Own
Ford, Pitt's subtlety lost in 'Devil's Own' action

BY MARGARET A. McGURK
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Brad Pitt In the best cases, action movies can integrate character studies, and character-driven dramas can use action effectively. Sad to say, The Devil's Own is not a best case.

The movie strives for a combination of thrills and pathos, but doesn't quite succeed at either.

MOVIE REVIEW
Devil's Own
**
(R; violence, language) Brad Pitt, Harrison Ford. 111 minutes. At National Amusements.

What we get instead are two terrific performances in search of a movie, thanks to yeomen's work from co-stars Brad Pitt and Harrison Ford.

The tale centers on Frankie McGuire (Mr. Pitt), an Irish Republican Army terrorist who sneaks into the United States to elude police after a gory shootout. A secret sympathizer finds him a home with Tom O'Meara (Mr. Ford), an unsuspecting New York City beat cop with a wife and three daughters.

Under Tom's influence, Frankie begins to see a world of simple graces. He responds like an orphaned child to the loving family life in the O'Meara household, even while he pursues a perilous arms deal.

For his part, Tom develops a fatherly bond with Frankie, whom he sees only as a gentle visitor.

Mr. Ford makes outstanding work of Tom O'Meara, an ordinary man of rare decency and kindness. He's the kind of policeman who can count on one hand the number of times he's used his gun in 23 years, who despises violence and dishonesty in anyone, including himself.

A subplot involving Tom's partner (Ruben Blades) puts the older cop's morals to the test in a way that sharply contrasts with Frankie's single-minded drive to carry out an act of despicable savagery.

Crises converge when Frankie's troubles invade Tom's world -- which is also about the time the movie starts coming unraveled.

Both Mr. Ford and Mr. Pitt play their characters with quiet reserve; both speak in low voices and avoid exaggerated mannerisms. It's a smart approach that infuses their scenes with dramatic tension and promise.

But when director Alan J. Pakula, with a script from David Aaron Cohen, Vincent Patrick and Kevin Jarre, swings them into shoot-em-up mayhem, the subtlety of the earlier scenes is lost in a hail of bullets and flailing fists.

Ultimately, the movie's unsatisfying resolution boils down to lack of conviction about who deserves our sympathy -- and more importantly, why.

Frankie is a bad guy drawn toward redemption. Tom is a figure of purity torn between justice and revenge. When time comes for them to reveal themselves, the movie loses its nerve. It wants us to like them both too much to let them be real.

In the end, it's not about Frankie and Tom; it's about Movie Stars.

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