The Devil Has a Name
An almond farmer (David Strathairn) sets out to crack open the oil industry in this nutty legal drama/dark comedy/soap opera hybrid directed by its co-star Edward James Olmos – and it goes to pieces Olmos immediately.
On being threatened by shady representatives from an oil company (Kate Bosworth and Pablo Schreiber), the farmer discovers his water supply has been poisoned through fracking and enlists the help of a weak-bladdered environmental lawyer (Martin Sheen) to expose this corporate cover-up. Every character in this bag of mixed nuts seems to belong to a different genre: Bosworth is in Basic Instinct, Schreiber is in No Country for Old Men, Sheen is in The West Wing, and Olmos is at sea. This lack of focus smacks of first-time directing (it’s his third), while Robert McEveety’s dialogue is pulpy as peanut butter: “There are 53 different types of nuts in the world and he’s one of them.”
The reality of environmental abuse enacted by oil companies is underlined, then undermined by the film’s pantomime villain performances and Dallas-style chicanery. As the cheroot-chomping muscle, Schreiber (“Pornstache” from Orange is the New Black) chews the scenery like a cigar and at one point even moos, which constitutes the closest the movie comes to genuine mystery. The melodrama veers between the brashly eccentric and the fracking stupid, including random acts of arson, Strathairn and Olmos wrestling, and a bit where Haley Joel Osment explains irrigation using pancakes.
The Devil Has a Name is reminiscent of films like Vice and Bombshell that make botched attempts to expose widely publicised topical issues under the guise of comedy, hoping to plug the plot holes with subpar humour. As far as cover-ups go, that’s a drop in the ocean compared to the way the oil industry is shown here to operate. But it still leaves a mess.
The Devil Has a Name is released nationwide on 19th October 2020.
Watch the trailer for The Devil Has a Name here: