Only once in a blue moon is a movie made without a hitch. Unfortunately, this was not the case for the filmmakers involved with the Harrison Ford and Brad Pitt thriller The Devil’s Own. The movie that follows a police officer who discovers his house guest is a terrorist in hiding went through a tumultuous decade of production before finally being released to theaters in 1997, but now it’s a classic available to stream on Netflix.
Starring Harrison Ford and Brad Pitt, The Devil’s Own is now available to stream on Netflix.
The Devil’s Own is an American action thriller directed by Alan J. Pakula and written by David Aaron Cohen, Vincent Patrick, Kevin Jarre, and Robert Mark Kamen. Jarre wrote the first draft of the script in the late 80s, but the movie would go through numerous rewrites and adaptations before it was finally filmed. After so many changes, one would have hoped the film would become a cinematic sensation, but it was unluckily met with mediocre reception, going down in film history as a solid B-movie.
The plot of The Devil’s Own unfolds in a backdrop of political turmoil and personal vendettas. Set in 1972 Northern Ireland, it introduces us to eight-year-old Frankie McGuire, who witnesses his father’s murder due to his Irish republican sympathies. This traumatic event shapes Frankie’s destiny, leading him to become a member of the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA).
The Devil’s Own picks up twenty years later in Belfast, Ireland, when Frankie and his comrades are ambushed by British forces, prompting their leader to seek anti-aircraft missiles to combat the British helicopters. Frankie, operating under the alias “Rory Devaney,” embarks on a journey to New York City to secure these weapons. He is hosted by NYPD Sergeant Tom O’Meara (Harrison Ford), who believes Frankie is an immigrant construction worker.
Brad Pitt recommended Harrison Ford for The Devil’s Own, causing the script to be rewritten to expand the part of Sergeant O’Meara.
As the story progresses, trust, loyalty, and moral dilemmas come to the forefront. Tom and Frankie’s paths become increasingly intertwined, with both men fighting for the causes they believe in. The Devil’s Own delves deep into their complex relationship and the blurred lines between right and wrong.
The genesis of The Devil’s Own dates back to the late 80s when producers Lawrence Gordon and Robert F. Colesberry envisioned a gritty, low-budget thriller. After receiving the script from Jarre, they signed on a young Brad Pitt immediately, but the project encountered several setbacks from studios who had concerns about Pitt’s acting abilities and the politically charged subject matter.
A few years later, Pitt had done a few hit films, including Interview with the Vampire, and studios were willing to take a chance on him — but not as a leading man. Pitt recommended including Harrison Ford in the picture, but that meant a total script rewrite to make a part big enough for the Indiana Jones actor. The scriptwriting team of David Aaron Cohen and Vincent Patrick was brought in to rework the story, transforming The Devil’s Own into a two-hero narrative.
The Devil’s Own was a small hit, earning $140 million at the box office against a budget of $90 million.
Principal photography began in February 1996, but the script remained a work in progress throughout production. This instability led to tensions on set, with Pitt threatening to quit due to the incomplete and incoherent script. The Devil’s Own final scene had to be rewritten and reshot just two months before its release.
Despite the challenges in production, Brad Pitt and Harrison Ford have expressed their fondness for the film in retrospect. Pitt noted that it was a valuable learning experience, even though the script underwent significant changes during production. Ford praised director Alan Pakula — who directed the feature based on Ford’s suggestion — for crafting a compelling movie out of the challenging material.
The Devil’s Own received mixed reviews from critics upon its release. Rotten Tomatoes gave the feature a 35 percent approval rating, with critics expressing varying opinions about the film’s plot and character development. Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave it an average grade of “B-,” indicating a moderately positive response.
Critics like Roger Ebert praised the performances of Pitt and Ford, describing them as “enormously appealing and gifted actors.” Ebert also highlighted The Devil’s Own exploration of moral complexities. Another critic, Janet Maslin, appreciated the film’s solid thriller elements, thoughtful direction by Pakula, and outstanding cinematography by Gordon Willis.
However, the film also faced criticism for its contrived plot, with some reviewers finding the final act disappointing and character decisions frustrating. Despite these mixed reviews, The Devil’s Own managed to gross $140 million worldwide, surpassing its $90 million budget.