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The Devil's Own

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Devil's Own
Devils own film.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byAlan J. Pakula
Produced by
Screenplay by
Story byKevin Jarre
Music byJames Horner
CinematographyGordon Willis
Edited by
Distributed byColumbia Pictures
Release date
  • March 13, 1997 (1997-03-13) (New York City)
  • March 26, 1997 (1997-03-26) (United States)
Running time
111 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$86 million[3]
Box office$140,807,547 (worldwide)[4]

The Devil's Own is a 1997 American action thriller film starring Harrison Ford, Brad Pitt, Rubén Blades, Natascha McElhone, Julia Stiles, Margaret Colin, and Treat Williams. It was the final film directed by Alan J. Pakula, who died the next year, and the final film photographed by Gordon Willis, who retired soon after. The film was written by Vincent Patrick, David Aaron Cohen, and Kevin Jarre.

It revolves around a member of the Provisional Irish Republican Army (Pitt) who comes to the United States in order to obtain anti-aircraft missiles to be used to shoot down British helicopters in Northern Ireland. The plan is complicated by an Irish-American policeman (Ford), whom the IRA member has come to regard as family.[5]


In 1972, eight-year-old Frankie McGuire witnesses his father killed for being an Irish republican sympathizer. Twenty years later in Belfast, an adult Frankie and three other IRA members are engaged in a gun battle with the British Army and Military Reaction Force. One gunman is killed and another, Desmond, is wounded as Frankie and Sean Phelan flee. Hiding in the countryside, Frankie and his friend, Martin MacDuff, spot a British Army helicopter circling overhead and decide they need Stinger missiles.

Frankie travels to New York under the alias "Rory Devaney" seeking to buy missiles. IRA sympathizer Judge Peter Fitzsimmons has procured Frankie a construction job as a cover and arranged for him to stay with NYPD Sergeant Tom O'Meara, his wife, Sheila, and their three daughters in Staten Island. The O'Meara family are unaware of Frankie's true identity.

Meanwhile, Sean acquires a fishing boat that he and Frankie will repair to transport the missiles to Ireland. Frankie meets with black market arms dealer and Irish mobster Billy Burke, who agrees to purchase the missiles using his own money. Frankie will pay him upon delivery in six to eight weeks. Judge Fitzsimmons raises the money and sends his family nanny, Megan Doherty, to deliver it to Frankie; he hides the money at the O'Meara home. Megan later calls Frankie, saying that Martin was killed and to postpone the deal with Burke.

Meanwhile, Tom's partner, Eddie Diaz, fatally shoots an unarmed thief in the back as he runs away. Following an intense investigation, Tom decides to retire from the force. When Tom and Sheila arrive home, masked intruders are waiting there. Sheila calls 911 as Tom fights them off. Frankie arrives and aids Tom, but they are subdued. As police sirens approach, Tom persuades the men to escape while they still can. Frankie later confronts Burke, knowing he ordered the attack. Burke tells Frankie to bring him the money or he will kill the captive Sean. Frankie goes to collect the money hidden the O´Meara house, but Tom has found it and forces Frankie to reveal his true identity. Eddie arrives, and he and Tom arrest Frankie. En route to the police station, Frankie escapes, killing Eddie. As the FBI and British authorities interrogate Tom about Frankie, he realizes their mission is to execute Frankie.

Frankie meets Burke in a warehouse. Burke's thug tosses Sean's severed head at Frankie's feet. Rather than handing over the money, Frankie gives them a bomb-laden bag that explodes when opened. Frankie grabs a gun and kills Burke and his men, then drives off with the missiles. At the Fitzsimmons house, Frankie tells Megan to alert his comrades that he is returning to Ireland with the missiles. He plans to leave that night, but Tom crashes the Fitzsimmons' cocktail party and confronts the judge. Tom recognizes Megan from a photo in Frankie's bag. Frankie, hiding upstairs, escapes. Tom persuades Megan to reveal where Frankie is going by promising to protect him from being assassinated. Tom jumps aboard the boat as it is leaving the dock. He and Frankie shoot at each other and both are wounded. Frankie, seemingly having the upper hand, hesitates to shoot Tom. He collapses and dies.



The film's origins date back to 1990, when producer Lawrence Gordon acquired the script.[6] In 1991, Gordon took the script to Pitt, who was not yet well-known, the project languished until 1995, when Pitt suggested Ford as Tom O'Meara, which at that time was more of a character role. Ford agreed, though that meant the script had to be rewritten to create a fuller role for Ford and a more complicated relationship between the characters played by the two men.[7] It was Ford's suggestion to bring Pakula in as director. Principal photography started in February 1996, with the script "still in flux"; according to The New York Times, "ego clashes, budget overruns and long delays plagued the project."[7] Screenwriters Terry George and Robert Mark Kamen were brought on board to provide rewrites to the script during filming.[8][1][2] Pitt "threatened to quit early in the shoot, complaining that the script was incomplete and incoherent" and later "denounced the movie as 'the most irresponsible bit of film making – if you can even call it that – that I've ever seen.'"[7]

According to Pakula, one problem was that the film's plot did not fall along conventionally simple Hollywood lines, as Ford and Pitt were both playing "good guys" according to each of their own distinct moral codes. The New York Times characterized Ford's character as "the upright American cop who deplores violence" and Pitt's as "an I.R.A. gunman for whom violence is a reasonable solution to his people's 300 years of troubles."[7] Pakula compared his intent with the two characters to that depicted in Red River, a 1948 western in which John Wayne's character is defied by his young protégé, played by Montgomery Clift.[7]

The Devil's Own was filmed on location and at the Chelsea Piers studios in New York City, as well as in Newark, Hoboken, Jersey City, Bayonne, Sandy Hook and Montclair, New Jersey.[9] and Greenport, New York on Long Island.[citation needed] The opening scenes were filmed at Port Oriel, Clogherhead, County Louth, Republic of Ireland. The Belfast shootout scenes were filmed in Inchicore, Dublin in July 1996. Other location shoots in Ireland were in the Dublin Mountains. Two months before it opened, the film was still unfinished: Pakula was unhappy with the final scene ("a showdown on a boat with a cargo of Stinger missiles"), so in early February the scene was "rewritten and reshot over two days in a studio in California."[7]


The Devil's Own received mixed reviews from critics. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a rating of 35% based on 40 reviews, with an average rating of 5.3/10.[10] On Metacritic it has a score of 53/100, based on reviews from 26 critics.[11]

In retrospect, Brad Pitt said: "I really like Devil’s Own. It was a good schooling for me. Still, I think the movie could have been better. Literally, the script got thrown out."[12]

Roger Ebert gave the film 2½ stars out of 4, saying it showed "ignorance of the history of Northern Ireland" and that "the issues involved between the two sides are never mentioned." The review criticised the contrived plot, stating "The moral reasoning in the film is so confusing that only by completely sidestepping it can the plot work at all." Pitt and Ford were praised, Ebert complimenting that the pair "are enormously appealing and gifted actors, and to the degree that the movie works, it's because of them."[13]

James Berardinelli gave the film 2½ stars out of 4, saying:

"For much of its running length, The Devil's Own works as a passable thriller. Certain plot elements (including many of the details surrounding the missile deal) border on preposterous, but that often goes with the territory in films of this genre. The best parts of The Devil's Own are the quiet moments, such as when Frankie and Tom are talking, or when Tom is spending time with his family. There's also an effective subplot that forces Tom to examine his moral outlook on life when his partner (Ruben Blades) accidentally shoots a fleeing suspect in the back. Unfortunately, The Devil's Own goes downhill fast in the final half-hour. Suddenly, it's as if every significant character in the film has undergone a frontal lobotomy. Otherwise-intelligent men start doing extremely stupid things, and the entire "dumbing-down" process becomes frustrating to observe. The final scenes are solid, but the stuff that leads up to them is a problem."[14]

Janet Maslin called it an "unexpectedly solid thriller" with a "first-rate, madly photogenic performance" by Pitt; she notes that it is "directed by Alan J. Pakula in a thoughtful urban style that recalls the vintage New York stories of Sidney Lumet" and "handsomely photographed by Gordon Willis".[15] Richard Schickel called it "quite a good movie – a character-driven (as opposed to whammy-driven) suspense drama – dark, fatalistic and, within its melodramatically stretched terms, emotionally plausible"; he said Pakula "develops his story patiently, without letting its tensions unravel."[16] Entertainment Weekly gave it a "B+," calling it a "quiet, absorbing, shades-of-gray drama, a kind of thriller meditation on the schism in Northern Ireland."[17]

A reviewer for called it "a disjointed, sluggish picture" with a problematic script that "bears the marks of tinkering": "swatches of the story appear to be missing, relationships aren't clearly defined, and characters aren't identified."[18] Variety said "whatever contortions the script went through on its way to the result, Pakula has managed to maintain an admirable concentration on the central moral equation, which posits the Irish terrorist's understandable political and emotional motivations for revenge versus the decent cop's sense of justice and the greater human good."[19]

The film's grossed $140 million, exceeding its $90 million budget, of which $43 million was from North America.[citation needed]

The film was involved in adverse publicity when, two months before her death, Diana, Princess of Wales took 15-year-old Prince William, and 12-year-old Prince Harry, to see the movie. The movie was restricted to movie-goers aged 15 or older, and the Princess persuaded the cinema to let Prince Harry stay despite him being three years underage. She was criticised for flouting the law, for using her influence to persuade the cinema's employees to flout the law, and because of the movie's subject matter (which was said to glamorise the IRA – highly sensitive given that her sons' great-uncle Earl Mountbatten was assassinated by the IRA). She later apologised, saying she was unaware of the film's content.[20]


  1. ^ a b "Devil's Own, The - Ethics & Public Policy Center". Ethics & Public Policy Center. Retrieved 2017-01-24.
  2. ^ a b Pfeiffer, Lee; Lewis, Michael (2002-01-01). The Films of Harrison Ford. Citadel Press. ISBN 9780806523644.
  3. ^ The Devil's Own on IMDb
  4. ^ The Devil's Own at Box Office Mojo
  5. ^ Roger Ebert (March 28, 1997). "The Devil's Own".
  6. ^ "Threads That Led to the Making of 'Glory' : Movies: Screenwriter Kevin Jarre recalls the 'unbelievable odyssey' in getting the tale of a black Civil War regiment made". The Los Angeles Times. 1990-01-18. Retrieved 2020-03-08.
  7. ^ a b c d e f Ian Fisher (March 30, 1997). "Disaster? Was There a Disaster?". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-04-18.
  8. ^ "Dealing with 'The Devil's Own'". 1997-04-11. Retrieved 2017-01-24.
  9. ^ {
  10. ^ "The Devil's Own (1997)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved 2018-12-15.
  11. ^ "The Devil's Own Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved 2011-01-25.
  12. ^
  13. ^ Roger Ebert (1997-03-28). "The Devil's Own". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2011-04-18. In the opening scenes, an 8-year-old boy is having dinner with his family when masked men burst into their cottage and shoot his father dead. Flash forward 20 years, and now Francis McGuire (Brad Pitt) has been cornered in a Belfast hideout.
  14. ^ James Berardinelli. "The Devil's Own". Retrieved 2011-01-25.
  15. ^ Janet Maslin (March 26, 1997). "Wake Up, Sergeant, There's a Terrorist in Your Basement". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-01-17.
  16. ^ Richard Schickel (March 31, 1997). "Sympathy for the Devil". Time. Retrieved 2011-01-17.
  17. ^ "The Devil's Own". Entertainment Weekly. March 21, 1997. Retrieved 2011-01-17.
  18. ^ Charles Taylor (March 28, 1997). "The Dreamboat and the Stiff". Retrieved 2011-01-25.[dead link]
  19. ^ Todd McCarthy (March 29, 1997). "The Devil's Own". Variety. Retrieved 2011-01-25.[dead link]
  20. ^ "Princess tries to defuse row over trip to IRA film". The Independent. London. 1997-06-24.

External links

This page was last edited on 20 January 2021, at 09:40
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