The Devil's Own

The Devil's Own
The Devil's Own

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Alan J. Pakula
Produced by Lawrence Gordon
Robert F. Colesberry
Written by Screenplay:
David Aaron Cohen
Vincent Patrick
Kevin Jarre
Kevin Jarre
Starring Harrison Ford
Brad Pitt
Margaret Colin
Ruben Blades
Treat Williams
George Hearn
Music by James Horner
Cinematography Gordon Willis
Editing by Tom Rolf
Dennis Virkler
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Release date(s) March 26, 1997 (1997-03-26)
Running time 111 minutes
Country U.S.
Language English
Budget $90,000,000[1]
Box office $140,807,547 (worldwide)[2]

The Devil's Own is a 1997 action thriller movie starring Harrison Ford, Brad Pitt, Rubén Blades, Natascha McElhone, Julia Stiles and Treat Williams. It was the final film directed by Alan J. Pakula.



In 1972, during The Troubles in Northern Ireland, an eight-year-old boy sees his father gunned down due to his republicanism Irish republican sympathies.[3]

September 1992 sees the grown-up Francis "Frankie" McGuire (Brad Pitt) as an I.R.A. gunman, with a ski mask and an automatic weapon, in a street fight in Belfast. Hiding in the countryside, he and friend Martin MacDuf (David O'Hara) see a British Army helicopter circling overhead and decide they need Stinger missiles. Five months later, Frankie, traveling as "Rory Devaney", is picked up at JFK Airport by IRA sympathizer Peter Fitzsimmons (George Hearn), a judge, who has arranged for "Rory" to stay with an unknowing New York policeman, Sergeant Tom O'Meara (Harrison Ford), his wife, Sheila (Margaret Colin), and their three daughters. The judge gives Frankie a handgun.

Next, Rory meets up with his friend Sean Phelan (Paul Ronan), another I.R.A. gunman, who is enjoying a peaceful life; but he has secured a large fishing boat, which they will sail back to Ireland with the missiles. Rory meets with Billy Burke (Treat Williams), who owns some bars and deals weapons on the black market. He agrees to purchase the weapons with his own money, waiting for Frankie to pay him on delivery in six to eight weeks.

Judge Fitzsimmons has raised the money to pay Burke for the missiles, and he has his family's nanny deliver the bag of cash to Frankie. She is Megan Doherty (Natascha McElhone), the younger sister of one of Frankie's many deceased friends. During an Irish celebration of the Confirmation of one of Tom's daughters, Megan phones Rory to tell him Martin MacDuf has been killed and that the deal with Billy Burke has to be put on hold, even though Burke has put out a very large amount of his own money.

Meanwhile, Tom is having problems of his own. One morning he and his partner, Eddie Diaz (Rubén Blades), see a man breaking into a car, and they chase him down the street. He had found a gun in the car and shoots at them with it and then throws it down. Tom stops to collect the gun, but Eddie chases the now-unarmed suspect into an alley and shoots him. In the investigation of the incident, Tom lies for Eddie, who is close to retirement; but he tells Sheila that the guilt makes him decide to retire as well.

When Tom and Sheila arrive home early one afternoon, they find masked intruders. Tom grapples with them while Sheila calls 9-1-1. Rory arrives and hits the men with a blunt object, but one of them has a gun and grabs Shelia. As sirens are heard, Tom persuades them to leave, emphasizing no one has been hurt. Even though his bag of cash is still in its hiding place, Frankie knows the thugs work for Burke, and he goes to Burke's office to talk, kneecapping one of his henchmen for emphasis. Burke suggests that Rory talk to Sean and takes Rory to Sean, beaten bloody and gagged in the trunk of a car. Burke tells Rory to get the money to him by that evening, or he'll kill Sean.

Rory returns to the O'Meara's house for the cash; but Tom had already found it. Rory explains to Tom why he is doing what he's doing, but Tom calls Eddie and they arrest him. Driving to the police station, they get stuck in traffic. When Eddie gets out to make a truck driver move his 18-wheeler, Rory chokes Tom unconscious and goes to the trunk to get the bag of cash. Eddie sees Rory and reaches for his gun. Rory, who has Tom's gun, warns him not to draw, but Eddie ignores the warning. Rory kills him but fails to retrieve the money.

The FBI and the British SAS question Tom about his association with ruthless terrorist Frankie McGuire. That night, Frankie meets Burke in a warehouse, where one of Burke's thugs tosses Sean's severed head at Frankie's feet; and Frankie gives them a bag with a bomb that explodes when the same thug opens it. Frankie kills Burke and his men and goes to the Fitzsimmons home to ask Megan to tell the I.R.A. he is returning with the missiles. Tom crashes a cocktail party there to talk to the Judge and recognizes her from a photo in Rory's room. Frankie escapes, but Tom persuades Megan to tell him where Frankie is going because he wants to save his life. Tom finds Frankie on the Sean's boat and, just as Frankie sails away from the pier, Tom jumps aboard and the two exchange gunfire. Tom is shot in the shoulder sinks to the deck. Frankie emerges and stands over him, pointing his gun; but he is fatally wounded. The film ends as Frankie dies and Tom turns the boat back to shore as the morning sun rises over New York.



The film's origins date back to 1992, when Pitt, who was not yet well-known, got a script from producer Lawrence Gordon; three years later, 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.[1] It was Ford's suggestion to bring in 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."[1] 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."[1]

According to Pakula, one problem was that the film's plot did not fall along conventionally simple Hollywood lines: Ford and Pitt were both playing "good guys" according to each of their own distinct moral codes; as The New York Times characterized them "Mr. Ford [is] the upright American cop who deplores violence and Mr. Pitt [is] an I.R.A. gunman for whom violence is a reasonable solution to his people's 300 years of troubles."[1] 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.[1]

The Devil's Own was filmed in Greenport, New York on Long Island as well as Montclair, New Jersey.[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."[1]


The Devil's Own received negative reviews from critics and currently holds a 29% certified rotten rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 34 reviews and 53/100 based on 26 reviews on Metacritic.[4][5]

Roger Ebert gave the film 2.5/4 stars (2½ stars out of 4), saying the film showed "ignorance of the history of Northern Ireland" and that "the issues involved between the two sides are never mentioned". The review also 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." The performances given by both Brad Pitt and Harrison Ford attracted praise however, with Roger complimenting that the pair "...are enormously appealing and gifted actors, and to the degree that the movie works, it's because of them."[3]

James Berardinelli gave the film 2.5/4 stars (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."[6] 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".[7] 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."[8] 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."[9]

A reviewer for called it a "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."[10] 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."[11]

The film was a box office success, making $43 million in the USA and $97 million overseas which made a worldwide gross of $140 million, beating its $90 million budget.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Ian Fisher (March 30, 1997). "Disaster? Was There a Disaster?". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-04-18. 
  2. ^ The Devil's Own at Box Office Mojo
  3. ^ a b Roger Ebert. "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." 
  4. ^ Various. "The Devil's Own Movie Reviews". Retrieved 2011-01-25. 
  5. ^ Various. "The Devil's Own Reviews". Retrieved 2011-01-25. 
  6. ^ James Berardinelli. "The Devil's Own". Retrieved 2011-01-25. 
  7. ^ Janet Maslin (March 26, 1997). "Wake Up, Sergeant, There's a Terrorist in Your Basement". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-01-17. 
  8. ^ Richard Schickel (March 31, 1997). "Sympathy for the Devil". Time.,9171,986128,00.html. Retrieved 2011-01-17. 
  9. ^ "The Devil's Own". Entertainment Weekly. March 21, 1997.,,287134,00.html. Retrieved 2011-01-17. 
  10. ^ Charles Taylor (March 28, 1997). "The Dreamboat and the Stiff". Retrieved 2011-01-25. 
  11. ^ Todd McCarthy (March 29, 1997). "The Devil's Own". Variety. Retrieved 2011-01-25. 

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