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Soundtrack review: The devil’s advocate (James Newton Howard – 1997)

JNH Thursday

Soundtrack review: The devil’s advocate (James Newton Howard – 1997)


“The Devil’s Advocate”, the 1997 movie starring Keanu Reeves as an aspiring lawyer, Charlize Theron in her first role and Al Pacino as the devil is very special to me. It’s the movie I saw most times at the cinema, I was going to it almost daily, mostly because of how magnetic and convincing Pacino was. I still regard this as one of his best roles ever. I’ve continued watching the movie on video, TV, DVD, until it became as familiar to me as childhood stories. I know every single line, I know every single scene and I know every single image from this movie.

Naturally, I also know every single note from the score. Back then I wasn’t into film music and I had no idea who wrote it. But once I started collecting film scores, I was happy to discover that this was one of the earlier scores of James Newton Howard. I cannot talk about this score without getting that nostalgia for the time when it came out, for the college days when I watched it, for that old and dirty cinema across the street from our university.

The supernatural undertone of the movie is obvious in the music… we get fiery choirs and cues that have a cathedral echo in them. We get commanding buildups and suspenseful revelations in this score, and also a feeling of unease. Since the theme is sometimes religious, we hear a powerful organ playing from time to time, and it brings some of the most exciting tracks of the score. The themes aren’t as deep or well developed as James Newton Howards’ compositions from 2000 on, but I love raw JNH, and this score is my favorite from his pre-Shyamalan era.

We also get three voiceover tracks and this is the best gift for a fan of the movie like I am… The vanity speech, the end speech about God, the “Surprise” speech and Pacino’s evil laugh from the end, all of them tickle my memories and add to the nostalgia factor of this score, one of the highest I have for any score.

Cue rating: 70 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 25 / 54

Album excellence: 47%


01.Main Title

02.New York








Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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  1. Marina 4th December 2014

    Beautifully written!


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