It's not an American story. It's an Irish one.
The production of "The Devil's Own" was bedeviled by going into production without a completed script, friction between the two principal leads (Brad 'wash your hair!' Pitt and Harrison Ford), some badmouthing about the shoot from Pitt, some poor audience reactions at test screenings, and some last-minute reshoots. And what did all this grief result in? A passable thriller.
There have been many movies over the past few years dealing with the conflict in Northern Ireland: "In the Name of the Father", "Michael Collins", "Nothing Personal", and "The Crying Game". TDO is the big-budget American take on this genre that removes any hint of thoughtful analysis of the dissension between the Catholics and the Protestants, and in its stead strips the story down to the displacement of loyalties in a man who doesn't even have a stake in the Irish conflict.
Frankie McGuire (Pitt) saw his father gunned down at the dinner table when he was eight years old. He grows up to be the leader of an Irish Republican Army cell, and after narrowly escaping capture by the British, goes to New York to buy some guided missiles. With the help of an Irish-American judge, Frankie (under the name of Rory Devaney) is taken in by good-guy cop Tom O'Meara (Ford), who allows him to live in the basement apartment. Immediately, the O'Meara family warms up to the stranger in their midst, and vice versa. It is probably here, in these scenes of the bonding between the O'Mearas and Frankie, that the movie's strength lies.
Frankie is unswerving in his determination to return to Ireland with the missiles, arranging a buy with an oily arms dealer (Treat Williams) and repairing a tugboat that will be used to ship them. Tom is also unswerving in his honesty and sense of justice, which is severely tested when his partner (Ruben Blades) shoots a fleeing suspect in the back (I smell a thematic set-up!). As the movie enters the third act, these two similar personalities with contrasting objectives clash in a final confrontation that defies logic and strains the credibility of the story.
The budget was purported to be in excess of $90 million-- where did they spend it? Though this movie does have some interesting action sequences (especially the opening sequence where we see an adult Frankie McGuire in a running battle with British soldiers through the streets of Belfast), there was nothing in TDO that was particularly over-the-top in terms of special effects or elaborate sets to justify the budget, considering that the effects-laden "Independence Day" was made for $20 million less.
The only reason why I rented this movie was because a) Harrison Ford was in it and b) the director, Alan J. Pakula, had directed some decent suspense-thrillers in the past ("All the President's Men" and "Presumed Innocent"). Overall, "The Devil's Own" was an 'okay' evening rental, but unfortunately, I was hoping for so much more.