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The Devil's Own

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Title: The Devil's Own  
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Subject: Brendan Kelly (actor), Simon Jones (actor), Julia Stiles, Gordon Willis, 1997 in film
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The Devil's Own

The Devil's Own
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Alan J. Pakula
Produced by
Screenplay by
Story by Kevin Jarre
Music by James Horner
Cinematography Gordon Willis
Edited by
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Release dates
  • March 26, 1997 (1997-03-26) (USA)
Running time
111 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $90,000,000[1]
Box office $140,807,547 (worldwide)[2]

The Devil's Own is a 1997 American action thriller film starring Harrison Ford, Brad Pitt, Rubén Blades, Natascha McElhone, Julia Stiles, and Treat Williams. It was the final film directed by Alan J. Pakula and the final film photographed by Gordon Willis. A member of the Provisional Irish Republican Army 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 thwarted by an Irish-American policeman.[3]


  • Plot 1
  • Cast 2
  • Production 3
  • Reception 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6


In 1972, eight-year-old Francis "Frankie" McGuire sees his father gunned down due to his Irish republican sympathies.[4] In September 1992, the grown-up Frankie (Brad Pitt) and three other I.R.A. gunmen are involved in a shootout in Belfast when Special Air Service commandos attempt to capture him. 18 British military personnel are killed or wounded. One gunman is killed and another, Desmond, is wounded as Frankie and the last gunman, Sean Phelan (Paul Ronan), escape. An SAS agent asks the wounded man where Frankie is. Desmond is fatally shot by the agent after he says "up your arse". Hiding in the countryside, Frankie and his 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 New York police Sergeant Tom O'Meara (Harrison Ford), his wife, Sheila (Margaret Colin), and their three daughters in Staten Island. O'Meara is led to believe that "Rory" is just another Irish guy looking for work. The judge gives Frankie a handgun. "Rory" and Tom hit it off, drink together, play billiards, and get to know one another. They discuss "the Troubles" in Northern Ireland, and Frankie reveals that his father had been killed in front of him when he was a child. Tom asks if "they got the fuckers" and Frankie says, "They were the fuckers.... It's not an American story. It's an Irish one."

Frankie meets with his friend Sean, who is enjoying a peaceful life and has secured a large fishing boat, in which they will sail back to Ireland with the missiles, calling it the "Irish Republican Navy". "Rory" meets with Billy Burke (Treat Williams), a bar owner and black market weapons dealer. 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 his family's nanny deliver the bag of money he has raised to Frankie. The nanny 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 has been killed and that the deal with Burke has to be put on hold.

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. The man shoots at them, then throws the gun away. Tom collects 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 that afternoon, they are attacked by masked intruders. Tom grapples with them while Sheila calls 9-1-1. "Rory" arrives and helps fight them too, but one of the intruders has a shotgun and grabs Sheila. As sirens are heard approaching, Tom persuades them to leave while they still can, 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 tells Frankie that he is all alone, but Frankie warns him that "there are 1,000 men standing behind me." Burke suggests that Frankie talk to Sean, and they go outside. Burke opens the trunk of a car, and reveals Sean, beaten bloody and gagged. The car drives off, and Burke tells Frankie to get the money to him by that evening, or he'll kill Sean. Then they beat up Frankie before leaving him.

Frankie returns to the O'Meara house for the cash, but Tom, seeing that "Rory's" room has been ransacked and the sofa cushions slit, has already found it hidden under the floor. Tom demands to know what is going on. Frankie explains to Tom what he is doing and why, and he apologizes for the trouble he has brought on Tom and his family, but he insists that he has to leave. But Tom had already called Eddie after finding the cash, and when Eddie arrives they arrest Frankie. Driving to the police station, they get stuck in traffic. When Eddie gets out to make a truck driver move his 18-wheeler, Frankie kicks Tom unconscious and goes to the trunk to get the bag of cash. Eddie sees Frankie and reaches for his gun. Frankie, who has taken Tom's gun, warns him not to draw, but Eddie ignores the warning. Frankie kills him. Tom has regained consciousness, attacks Frankie, and breaks off the key in the lock of the trunk. Frankie beats Tom down again, but the police arrive and Frankie flees without the money.

The FBI and the British SAS question Tom about his association with Frankie McGuire. Tom refuses to talk, telling his supervisor that they are not going to arrest Frankie, they are going to kill him, like all the other IRA men they have found.

That night, Frankie meets Burke in a warehouse, and one of Burke's thugs tosses Sean's severed head at Frankie's feet. Frankie gives them a bag with a bomb that explodes when the thug opens it. Frankie grabs one of their guns, kills Burke's men, and wounds Burke. He walks over to Burke, saying, "You're a stupid man, Mr. Burke" and shoots him. He drives off in a van with the missiles. He then goes to the Fitzsimmons home to ask Megan to tell the I.R.A. he is returning with the missiles. He plans to spend the night and leave the next morning.

Tom crashes a cocktail party there to confront the judge. He recognizes Megan from a photo that Sean had taken of Frankie and Megan dancing, which he found in "Rory's" passport in the money bag. He chases after her, but Frankie escapes. Tom persuades Megan to tell him where Frankie is going by promising to protect Frankie from being assassinated. Tom finds Frankie, who has just finished loading the missiles onto the boat and, just as Frankie sails away from the pier, Tom jumps aboard. The two exchange gunfire, and Tom is shot in the shoulder and sinks to the deck. Tom, who is in pain and bleeding, tries to grab his gun, but Frankie appears and kicks the gun and points his own at Tom and says that he warned him not to get involved. However, Frankie's hand starts to tremble, he is breathing heavily, and then collapses. Tom pulls Frankie's gun away, and then pulls back Frankie's jacket, discovering that he had shot Frankie in the chest when they exchanged gunfire. The two embrace each out of mutual respect, liking each other on a personal basis and recognizing they were both just doing their jobs. Frankie dies peacefully, realizing the struggle is over for him and that he did his best. Tom is badly wounded and saddened by Frankie's death, but has enough strength to get back up, and turns the boat to shore as the sun starts to rise over the ocean.



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 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 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.[5] and Greenport, New York on Long Island. 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 lukewarm reviews from critics and currently holds a 31% rotten rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 35 reviews and 53/100 based on 26 reviews on Metacritic.[6][7]

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."[4]

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."[8]

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".[9] 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."[10] 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."[11]

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."[12] 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."[13]

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

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.[14]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Ian Fisher (March 30, 1997). "Disaster? Was There a Disaster?".  
  2. ^ The Devil's Own at Box Office Mojo
  3. ^ Roger Ebert (March 28, 1997). "The Devil's Own". 
  4. ^ a b  
  5. ^ {
  6. ^ Various. "The Devil's Own Movie Reviews".  
  7. ^ Various. "The Devil's Own Reviews".  
  8. ^  
  9. ^  
  10. ^  
  11. ^ "The Devil's Own".  
  12. ^ Charles Taylor (March 28, 1997). "The Dreamboat and the Stiff".  
  13. ^ Todd McCarthy (March 29, 1997). "The Devil's Own".  
  14. ^ "Princess tries to defuse row over trip to IRA film". The Independent (London). 1997-06-24. 

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