Edward James Olmos is an actor-film-maker with a long history of advocating for Latino screen representation, and he has cast himself as something of what you might call a “magical Latino” stock character in this environmental courtroom drama. He plays Santiago, the right-hand man of Fred Stern (David Strathairn), a recently widowed California almond farmer, who is locked in a legal battle with a big bad oil firm. Santi always has some old-west wisdom to offer his old pal, such as “Don’t confuse fightin’ with livin’”; or “Who knows the true meaning of ‘covfefe’?”
It’s a forgivable indulgence, since The Devil Has a Name is also providing juicy roles for several other character actors who have long been under-served and unappreciated. Former child star Haley Joel Osment and Pablo Schreiber (“Pornstache” from Orange Is the New Black) are both having a high old time as scenery-chewing grifters with nefarious motives, while Martin Sheen recycles some of that President Bartlet twinkle as Stern’s dragon-slaying lawyer. The real revelation, though, is Kate Bosworth, a rising star of the early noughties (Blue Crush, Superman Returns) who never quite rose. As Gigi Cutler, however, she’s a new woman; a swaggering, cigarillo-chomping, femme-fatale version of cinema’s great rapacious oil men, who’ll drink your milkshake and probably your whiskey, too.
In Olmos’ and Bosworth’s home state of California, oil companies polluting groundwater is a real issue. But unlike the films Dark Waters or Erin Brockovich, The Devil Has a Name isn’t grounded in a specific case and loses much of its moral power as a result. Any poignance Stern’s David-vs-Goliath fight might have possessed is undermined by a flowery script that’s over-fond of quick comebacks. To hear Bosworth curl her lips around some of these zingers though, almost makes for a fair trade-off.
The Devil Has a Name is available on digital platforms from 16 October.