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Review: 'Suing The Devil' A Genuine Career Low For Malcolm McDowell

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by Gabe Toro
April 12, 2012 3:59 PM
15 Comments
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The spirit of Tommy Wiseau is alive and well in the new, Malcolm McDowell-produced faith-centric indie “Suing The Devil." There’s no way to sugarcoat the fact that McDowell, who stars as the titular Beelzebub, has over the course of his storied career, gone from working with Stanley Kubrick and Lindsay Anderson to slumming it in a low-rent Christian film that makes “Fireproof” look like “Dr. Zhivago.”

“Suing The Devil” concerns Australian law student Luke O’Brien (Bart Bronson), a long-haired rockstar-type and devout Christian having “the worst year of [his] life.” His mother was killed by a drunk driver, his wife is nursing a mysterious Movie Cough… gas prices are too high! To O’Brien, this is a sign that the world has gone wrong, and Satan is to blame. The only logical realization is that Satan needs to be sued. Specifically for eight trillion dollars, and yes he is serious, and no, no one ever asks how he came to that specific cash amount.

After supplying court documents to major law firms, goth teens and strip club purveyors, O’Brien is prepared to be kicked out of court after having made his point, when into the picture steps Malcolm McDowell, clad in all-black, in dark shades, looking desperately like a hopelessly square old man trying to be hip. Satan smiles and laughs at everyone’s attentions, pulling off cheap parlor tricks and, in one scene, kneecapping a Kiss fan and proclaiming himself “a Tom Jones man.”

While the green O’Brien goes at the Devil in court with a fellow student (“Friends don’t ask friends to sue Satan”), McDowell’s reptilian smoothie courts a “dream team” of legal aides from around the world, with the names of Mr. Ice, Ms. Black, Mr. Think Tank, Ms. Shy, Mr. Innocent, Professor Field, Miss Scarlet and Mr. In-Yo-Face (the black one!). While most of them are not atheists, they share with the Devil a common hatred of God, and have previously litigated in cases against cancer medication, the electric car, and restrictions on tobacco and gambling. It’s never exactly explained why Satan needs eight high-powered lawyers when he’s SATAN, but McDowell’s performance, a lighter shade of Al Pacino in “The Devil’s Advocate,” is meant to suggest that he’s having a ball.

Once the trial begins, it’s clear that the filmmakers have never once set foot in an actual courtroom. McDowell’s entire legal team of terrible actors take turns mugging for the camera, screaming random objections and badgering each and every witness while drenched in flop sweat. O’Brien is equally unprofessional, consistently changing his character’s aim in the trial, resorting to name-calling and Bible-quoting, which, given the nature of this case, is completely endorsed by the judge. O’Brien also appears unclear as to whether he’s pinning his own pedestrian struggles on the Devil, or suggesting Satan is responsible for all evil in the world. It’s cruel to say it more than once, but this inconsistency further illustrates that Bart Bronson may be one of the worst actors to ever read dialogue off a printed page.

The trial is punctuated by snippets from a fictional show “You Decide The Verdict,” a legal series hosted by pundit Barry Polk (Corbin Bernsen) that helpfully narrates exactly what we just watched as if it was a sporting event with a constantly changing score. He speaks to two “experts,” one of whom is called Tony “The Hip” Anzaldo and is played by a distinctly uncomfortable-looking Tom Sizemore. Sizemore, who has made a host of dubious career decisions in recent memory, does his best to get through his lines in a speed-mumble, desperate to get them out, in what was likely a single day of shooting.

The idea of taking Satan to court is a funny one, and it opens a Pandora’s Box of possibilities. But “Suing The Devil” is startlingly simpleminded, as when O’Brien puts an oil executive onto the stand and chastises him for being a capitalist and atheist, as if good and evil had any bearing on this man’s free enterprise. The ideas behind the film are laughably primitive, and it’s startling to see an actor of McDowell’s caliber swept up in them. At the point where Satan begins taking credit for gangsta rap, it’s clear that the ignorance that powers this film is borderline dangerous. It pretends it’s a comedy when one lawyer rants like Jim Carrey in front of extras forced to laugh as if by gunpoint, and then declares itself a drama when O’Brien has to answer character assassination claims that he used a curse word once. In short, it’s embarrassing on almost every level, poorly written, shot, scored and edited and bereft of a single idea, interesting or otherwise. [F]

"Suing The Devil" is out now on VOD.

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15 Comments

  • Alex | July 26, 2014 5:58 PMReply

    As a devout Catholic, I can comfortably say that this movie was an absolute joke. Christians who thought this movie met their standards for how they want to be perceived, or found the message to be enlightening... seriously need to deepen the intellectual parts of their faith, philosophy and theology. It seems to me that a lot of them don't actually know why they believe what they believe, which produces the kind of shallow and meaningless rhetoric that this movie so terribly embraces.

  • Thomas | January 21, 2014 9:34 AMReply

    Easily the worst acting I have EVER. SEEN. I am a "Christian" and clearly understand that "Christian" movies aren't always box office smashes, as well as the actors that are in them aren't always big players either. BUT, this one was just soooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo lame and ridiculous. I feel sorry for Malcolm having to endure this. Left Behind looks like an Academy award winning film when compared to this turd of a "movie"

  • Paul York | May 23, 2013 11:34 AMReply

    In the previous comment I meant to add that the execution of an otherwise good idea or premise was very poor. By that I mean that the writing was poor. Why not get the help of a real theologian or philosopher to explore some important themes in more depth, such as free will? Where was the theodicy problem? The dialogue and acting were just bad. It turned into a proseltyzing movie.

  • Paul York | May 23, 2013 11:30 AMReply

    The premise is good, but the execution. I got through most of it though because I enjoyed the acting of the guy playing Satan. The rest of them were terrible actors.

  • Owen | August 1, 2012 8:20 PMReply

    Abbey, your comment really hit me. "The world is so messed up today" Platitudes like that are the fuel behind this movie. There is not one unique word uttered from any character nor one concept that hasn't been regurgitated by Christian media over and over and over again. This film was actually worse than the abortion one I was forced to sit through at my Catholic school. They did the same thing in that movie as they did with this one--force their Christian message down your throat until you are espousing the same New Testament rhetoric. The only thing better about the anti-abortion movie than this was that I only had to sit through watching premies get throw into the trash, not the preacher turned actor's pathetic and nauseating performance.

  • veritas | July 31, 2012 9:07 AMReply

    I am a Christian and this movie is beyond dreadful. The acting is poor, cheesy at best - it's such a lame attempt at movie-making that even the name of Malcolm McDowell can't lend it credence. The idea is wonderful but the movie ends up being a transparent proselytizing vehicle that just doesn't make the grade.

  • Paul | July 18, 2012 11:01 AMReply

    I am assuming that those of you defending this film are doing so because you are Christian and not because you are paid by the studio.

    If so, you only make yourselves look bad when you attempt to defend something that is as low quality as this. This is obviously an awful movie... surely you realize this, even as you defend it. If I was a Christian, I would be embarrassed by this film. It makes Christians look moronic, and defending it makes you look even more moronic.

    I get that you have an agenda and a belief. Do your thing. But pick your battlegrounds more carefully. This movie isn't worth it.

  • abbey | July 12, 2012 10:17 PMReply

    mr toro,

    you should not be reviewing films, period. you should look for another field coz u totally miss the tactical approach of the director.

    this movie successfully delivered the heavy message...of good and evil, of ultimate deception and of how the world is so messed up today using light approach and fun.

    mr toro lighten up. you are so trying to be deep and analytical. but you came out so shallow. pls stop reviewing films man.

  • Dave | July 11, 2012 2:41 PMReply

    We just watched this - well, about 30 minutes is all we could endure. Very poor acting. None of it was even the slightest believable. I'm a Christian and feel awful that most media by Christians has to be so cheesy when there are so many great Christians in the industry.

  • Glenn | June 19, 2012 4:34 PMReply

    Hey Mark,
    Do you realize that your 2 comments basically support the writer's point that the film is garbage that only Christian fanatics would consider "marvelous"? Did you read a single sentence of the review? "Suing the Devil" is an embarrassing excuse of a film - badly written, badly acted, badly edited. The only good thing about this movie is ... hmmm ... I can't think of anything good. I'm sure you will think of something.

  • Robin | April 13, 2012 2:34 AMReply

    They should have Tommy Wiseau as part of this project. Well, what a waist!

  • Paul | April 12, 2012 7:01 PMReply

    Don't worry. McDowell will be starring in HOME ALONE 5: ALONE IN THE DARK this Christmas. ....Apparently ghosts are involved.... or something.

  • Mark F | April 12, 2012 5:52 PMReply

    Just saw the film on Time-Warner On Demand.

    My entire family loved it. So did my Pastor who recommended the film. It's funny that the reviewer never mentioned the truly marvelous scenes like how Luke gets someone to prove God exists in 30 seconds or Malcolm's incredible monologue at the end. "I invented customer service."

    I give it a 10 out of 10. I think Malcolm McDowell should have been nominated for an Oscar for his role. He's really good playing the devil.

  • Simon C | April 12, 2012 7:18 PM

    I predict this movie will be a massive success. On par with Troll 2 as one of the worst movies ever made. Gabe was being gentle in his review, words can't describe how bad this movie is....

  • Mark F. | April 12, 2012 5:54 PM

    Here's the Dove Foundation review (if anyone is interested):

    What a terrific film! Malcolm McDowell turns in a compelling performance as the devil himself, and he brings all the tricks and accusations he can to the trial in which he finds himself and his lawyers defending his past and evil ways.
    Bart Bronson also does a commendable job as Luke O'Brien, the salesman who is a lawyer by night and who files a default judgment against Satan as he is tired of his scheming ways and the pain he has inflicted on people over the centuries. This film is based in scripture and many verses are quoted and the special effects are nicely handled as they reveal that Satan is a being from below. O'Brien's plan to expose Satan is in keeping with the Bible which urges believers to be aware of the subtle deceptions of the enemy. We find in this film that Satan still can't stand to have scripture quoted at him! Satan states in the movie that the Bible is fiction but he sure squirms when it is used against him. He makes comments like "Evil is good' but O'Brien, despite Satan's accusations, holds his own against him when he relies on scripture, a lesson to all believers. This film was made with good intentions and writer and director Tim Chey hits a homerun with this story, his direction and with this film. We highly recommend this film for ages twelve plus and for mature kids under twelve. This is a movie which offers hope and inspiration. Every Christian should see it as should anyone who has ever faced the storms of life, which covers everyone. We award this film five Doves, our highest rating.

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