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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 and the final film photographed by Gordon Willis, and written by Vincent Patrick, David Aaron Cohen, and Kevin Jarre.

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]

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 being gunned down in front of him due to being an Irish republican sympathizer. By 1992, an adult Frankie and three other IRA men are caught up in a firefight in Belfast when members of the British Army try to capture him. One gunman is killed and another, Desmond, is wounded as Frankie and the last gunman, Sean Phelan, flee. Hiding out in the countryside, Frankie and his friend Martin MacDuff see a British Army helicopter circling overhead and decide they need Stinger missiles.

Frankie, traveling under the alias "Rory Devaney," is picked up at Newark Airport by IRA sympathizer Judge Peter Fitzsimmons, who has arranged for "Rory" to stay with New York City Police Sergeant Tom O'Meara, his wife, Sheila, and their three daughters in Staten Island. The judge gives Frankie a handgun. "Rory" befriends Tom during his stay.

Meanwhile, Sean has acquired a large fishing boat, and repairs it with Frankie so that they can use it to sail back to Ireland with the missiles. "Rory" meets with black market arms dealer and Irish mobster Billy Burke. Burke agrees to purchase the missiles with his own money, waiting for Frankie to pay him on delivery in six to eight weeks. Judge Fitzsimmons has his family's nanny, Megan Doherty deliver the bag of money he has raised to Frankie. During an Irish celebration of the confirmation of one of Tom's daughters, Megan phones Rory to tell him Martin has been killed and to postpone his deal with Burke.

Tom decides to retire from the police force after an incident in which his partner, Eddie Diaz, shoots and kills a thief who steals car radios. When Tom and Sheila arrive home that afternoon, they are attacked by masked intruders. As sirens are heard approaching, Tom persuades them to leave while they still can. Even though his bag of cash is still hidden under the floor in his room, Frankie knows that Burke is behind this attack, and confronts him. Burke reveals that he has kidnapped Sean, ordering Frankie to get him the money or his friend will die. Frankie attempts to collect the money at the O´Meara house, but Tom has already found it, forcing him to reveal his true identity. Tom and Eddie arrest Frankie, but Frankie escapes captivity, shooting Eddie in the process. The FBI and the British authorities question Tom about his association with Frankie, but he refuses to cooperate, aware that the British would kill Frankie.

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 bomb-laden bag that explodes when the thug opens it. Frankie grabs one of their guns, and kills Burke and his men. He drives off in a van with the missiles, stopping by the Fitzsimmons house to ask Megan to tell his superiors that he is returning with the missiles. He plans to leave the next morning, but 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 Frankie's 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, and as he sails away from the pier, Tom jumps aboard. The two fire on each other, wounding each other respectively. Frankie seemingly has the upper hand, but he collapses from his wound as he hesitates to shoot Tom. As the two men embrace out of mutual respect, Frankie dies. Saddened by Frankie's death, Tom 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.[6] 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."[6] Screenwriter Robert Mark Kamen was brought on board to provide rewrites to the script during filming.[7][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."[6]

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."[6] 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.[6]

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.[8] 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."[6]


The Devil's Own received mixed reviews from critics. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a rating of 34% based on 38 reviews, with an average rating of 5.3/10.[9] On Metacritic it has a score of 53/100, based on reviews from 26 critics.[10]

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."[11]

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."[12]

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."[13]

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".[14] 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."[15] 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."[16]

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."[17][dead link] 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."[18][dead link]

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.[19]


  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. ^ a b c d e f Ian Fisher (March 30, 1997). "Disaster? Was There a Disaster?". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-04-18.
  7. ^ "Dealing with 'The Devil's Own'". 1997-04-11. Retrieved 2017-01-24.
  8. ^ {
  9. ^ "The Devil's Own (1997)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved 2018-12-15.
  10. ^ "The Devil's Own Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved 2011-01-25.
  11. ^
  12. ^ 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.
  13. ^ James Berardinelli. "The Devil's Own". Retrieved 2011-01-25.
  14. ^ Janet Maslin (March 26, 1997). "Wake Up, Sergeant, There's a Terrorist in Your Basement". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-01-17.
  15. ^ Richard Schickel (March 31, 1997). "Sympathy for the Devil". Time. Retrieved 2011-01-17.
  16. ^ "The Devil's Own". Entertainment Weekly. March 21, 1997. Retrieved 2011-01-17.
  17. ^ Charles Taylor (March 28, 1997). "The Dreamboat and the Stiff". Retrieved 2011-01-25.
  18. ^ Todd McCarthy (March 29, 1997). "The Devil's Own". Variety. Retrieved 2011-01-25.
  19. ^ "Princess tries to defuse row over trip to IRA film". The Independent. London. 1997-06-24.

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