Posted by: kfugrip | November 19, 2007

One hundred ten: Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead

Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead, directed by Sidney Lumet, is supposed to be a return to form for the director of Network, Dog Day Afternoon, and Serpico. I wish this film had come out a few years ago when I was watching a lot of Lumet’s films and reading Making Movies (Lumet’s book on directing). I was deeply immersed in the world of Lumet, and perhaps this film would have been high on my list of films to see this fall/winter. Instead it was barely a blip on my radar until I saw the preview, which peaked my interest.

Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead, is a story of two brothers and a robbery gone bad. It’s one of my favorite types of crime stories, because the potential to delve into character is more present. You learn more about someone when they are hitting bottom than you do when they’re on the way up.  Hank (Ethan Hawke) is the loser, down on his luck brother, with a child support payment and debt piling up while he has sex with his brother’s wife Gina (Marisa Tomei) every Thursday.  Andy (Philip Seymore Hoffman) proposes that Hank robs their parent’s jewelry store and that it would solve both of their problems.  The robbery ends with their mother dead and everyone begins to come unhinged as the affair comes to light, the father (Albert Finney) vows to find the killer and bring him to justice.  Needless to say, it all ends in tragedy.

What I liked:  The performances are the star of the show here.  Hoffman, Hawke, Tomei, Finney, they are all at the top of their games under the direction of Lumet.  Lumet has always gotten the best out of his actors and Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead is no different.  I liked the Shakespearian nature of the story.  It’s high drama in the classic manner and when the story sticks to those parameters the movie is a success.  Marisa Tomei‘s character is much more complex than the typical female character in this type of film.

What I didn’t like:  There are some stylistic flourishes that seem out of place and distracting in this film.  The structure is to tell everyone’s story in regards to the robbery but there is a jump cut “thing” that happens that makes no sense.  It seemed like someone, probably a producer, told Lumet that he should dress up the story with some editorial trickery, and it fails.

The film wasn’t bad but it didn’t live up to the promise that was set forth in the first act.

3 stars




  1. This is a cool poster.

  2. I thought this poster was weak.

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