The Devil All The Time First Reviews: Tom Holland Is "Heartbreaking" In This Violent, Literary Crime Saga

Antonio Campos' adaptation of Donald Ray Pollock's novel might have been better as a miniseries, say critics, but the star-studded ensemble – especially Holland and Robert Pattinson – make this dark tale worth a watch.

by | September 11, 2020 | Comments

Devil All the Time
(Photo by Glen Wilson/Netflix)

Future Batman Robert Pattinson and current Spider-Man Tom Holland face off in The Devil All the Time, a violent Midwest-Gothic drama hitting Netflix this month. They’re only part of an extensive ensemble cast, the performances of which are the movie’s highlight, according to the first reviews. Beyond the acting, though, appreciation for the Antonio Campos-helmed adaptation of Donald Ray Pollock’s epic and violent crime novel varies with regards to its length, focus, and especially its violence.

Here’s what critics are saying about The Devil All the Time:

Does the movie do justice to the book?

The Devil All the Time [is a] darkly riveting realization of Donald Ray Pollock’s best-selling novel.” – Hope Madden, Columbus Underground

“Campos has such reverence for the novel that he’s illustrated it more than he’s dramatized it.” – Owen Gleiberman, Variety

“Perhaps Campos is too closely wedded to Pollock’s book (the author even provides the voiceover) to allow it to entirely adjust to a new medium.” – Matt Maytum, Total Film

“Screenwriters Antonio and brother Paulo Campos can’t meet the demands of omniscient fiction, shuffling scenarios with the fervor of a manic story editor zigzagging index cards across a whiteboard…a miniseries treatment would’ve suited this book more elegantly.” – Ryan Lattanzio, IndieWire

“Perhaps the story would have had more to breathe as a glossy limited series.” – Hannah Woodhead, Little White Lies

Is the movie like the book – very, very violent? 

“The movie is often disturbing and grotesque, not the ideal Netflix watch if you’re looking for something light. And the violence comes suddenly and in excess.” – Deirdre Molumby,

“Once or twice, the violence is shocking even when we know it’s coming, but often it’s just a heaping-on, and some viewers will feel like guilty participants in misery tourism.” – John DeFore, Hollywood Reporter

“The most extreme violence occurs off-screen, with the aftermath often portrayed in grisly tableaux.” – Tom Beasley, Flickering Myth

“With a heavier hand, this film would have been a savage beating or a backwoods horror of the most grotesque kind.” – Hope Madden, Columbus Underground

“An incredibly gruesome dog death portrayed in the first act is unshakable.” – Courtney Howard, Fresh Fiction

What would you compare the movie to?

“It’s like a southern-fried Richard Curtis movie. It’s Gothic, Actually.” – Tom Beasley, Flickering Myth

“Kind of Mars Attacks! as done by Cormac McCarthy” – Ryan Lattanzio, IndieWire

“Like a weird religious lovechild of 2012’s The Place Beyond The Pines and 2013’s Prisoners.” – Callum Crumlish, Daily Express

How is author Donald Ray Pollock as a narrator?

“Pollock brings a pleasing, smoky rasp of weary authority. He knows these venal, murderous, craven characters pretty well.” – Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

“While an omniscient narrator does feature in the source material, here it feels heavy-handed and distracting, and ends up giving the final film an unintended comic element that isn’t quite in keeping with the deathly dark happenings on screen.” – Hannah Woodhead, Little White Lies

“The result feels less like a worthy tribute to Pollock’s sanguinary prose than an odd, slightly irksome blend of movie and audio book.” – Dan Jolin, Empire Magazine

Devil All the Time
(Photo by Glen Wilson/Netflix)

What about the killer on-screen ensemble cast?

“It’s worth seeing for an intriguingly cast ensemble, authenticating the milieu as much as possible.” – Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

“Though there are no individual standouts in the cast, they all turn in intensely committed work that tethers us to their characters’ snowballing predicaments.” – Courtney Howard, Fresh Fiction

“A film that often feels like a sort of young actors’ Olympics; a baroque showcase for Gen-Z refugees of the industry’s biggest franchises to showcase their indie bona fides.” – Leah Greenblatt, Entertainment Weekly

“Every actor blends into the woodsy atmosphere with a sense of unease that permeates the air. No stars here, all character actors in service of the film’s unsettling calling.” – Hope Madden, Columbus Underground

“While the acting is all very good, there are moments when the cast members look bewildered, as if asking themselves how the heck their agents landed them in this gig.” – Deirdre Molumby,

How is Tom Holland? 

“The best thing to come out of the movie is seeing Tom Holland in a new light.” – Deirdre Molumby,

“It’s a very different role for Holland to his energetic, peppy Peter Parker, but he brings a discomfort and a sadness to the character that fits him like a glove.” – Tom Beasley, Flickering Myth

“It’s maybe most gratifying to see Holland so far from Peter Parker mode; his performance is delicately underplayed.” – Leah Greenblatt, Entertainment Weekly

“It is also Holland who is the most compelling to watch…because of the subdued intensity he lends to the character. He goes from placid and contained to explosively violent in what seems like seconds.” – Gabriella Geisinger

“Holland is perfectly withdrawn and quiet for so much of the film that when he is driven to action, it’s shocking and unexpected. He’s a combination of angst, guilt and barely contained rage.” – Steve Prokopy, Third Coast Review 

“Arvin is made even more complex by Holland’s guile and intrinsic internalization. He is heartbreaking, show-stopping, and entirely fantastic. His best performance yet. – Callum Crumlish, Daily Express

“Holland, sadly, doesn’t impress…[he] just isn’t right for this role. He seems too fresh, too clean to play such a haunted, violent character.” – Chris Evangelista, Slashfilm 

Devil All the Time
(Photo by Glen Wilson/Netflix)

And what about Robert Pattinson?

“Pattinson’s turn as pedophile preacher Preston Teagardin is the obvious highlight.” – Hannah Woodhead, Little White Lies

“Pattinson delivers another striking, film-stealing supporting turn with a hear-it-to-believe-it high-pitched Southern twang.” – Matt Maytum, Total Film

“For Pattinson, playing a domineering Bible Belt sleaze is a cred move (a sign that he doesn’t have to be liked), and he does a good job of it.” – Owen Gleiberman, Variety

“Only Pattinson evinces an understanding that irony may be the one workable option after earnest excellence has been ruled out…of all the stupendously bad accent work on display here, only his is as funny as it should be.” – Charles Bramesco, The Playlist

“Pattinson is clearly having a blast, giving one of the weirdest damn performances of his career…I thought it fit the often surreal tone of the film perfectly. Or maybe I just like watching Pattinson ham it up.” – Chris Evangelista, Slashfilm

“Then there’s Robert Pattinson, whose genteel southern accent is more miss than hit, but whose skeeviness is palpable through the screen.” – Gabriella Geisinger

“I don’t really know what he’s doing here, besides taking a little too long with every line reading.” – Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

Any other standout performances?

“Riley Keough, too, is a standout, adding layers and depth to a character who could easily have been a one-note sexpot caricature.” – Tom Beasley, Flickering Myth

“The film’s most stirring turns come from two young and gifted actresses [Mia Wasikowska and Eliza Scanlen] handed barely more than 10 minutes of screen time apiece.” – Ryan Lattanzio, IndieWire

Devil All the Time
(Photo by Glen Wilson/Netflix)

Are there any other positive elements?

“Campos and cinematographer Lol Crawley do a superb job of creating an ominous atmosphere, as if despair and tragedy are lurking around every small-town street corner, down every stretch of country road.” – Richard Roeper, Chicago Sun-Times

“Credit should be given for a predictably excellent period soundtrack chosen by music supervisors Randall Poster and Meghan Currier.” – John DeFore, Hollywood Reporter

Is it too much movie?

“If you stick with the lax pace, the slow-burn reveals are worth the wait.” – Gabriella Geisinger

“You can’t say it doesn’t keep you on your toes…But it’s a long movie, clocking in at 140 minutes, and there are several points at which it drags.” – Deirdre Molumby,

“There are times when the movie threatens to lose focus, but for the most part, this train keeps chugging on down the rickety tracks to its blood-soaked conclusion.” – Tom Beasley, Flickering Myth

“[Campos’] greatest feat may be that he was able to wrangle a story as ripe and unwieldy as Devil at all…and somehow still managing to land on the grim side of fascinating.” – Leah Greenblatt, Entertainment Weekly

“Like so many characters in this glum, shaggy ramble of a film, Campos gets lost in the woods.” – Charles Bramesco, The Playlist

Devil All the Time
(Photo by Glen Wilson/Netflix)

Is the timing right for The Devil All the Time?

The Devil All the Time feel[s] like a movie tailor-made for the current hellscape we’re all trapped in.” – Chris Evangelista, Slashfilm

“It’s 2020. We’re already familiar with abject misery.” – Courtney Howard, Fresh Fiction

The Devil All the Time is available to stream on Netflix from September 16, 2020.

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